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Highway Lid Concept is Really a Pricey & Inadequate Tunnel

September 6, 2009 Downtown, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll, Transportation 38 Comments

For over 40 years I-70 has been a major barrier dividing downtown St. Louis from the the Mississippi River.  Isolating Laclede’s Landing.  Hovering over the Missouri side as you exit the historic Eads Bridge:

At the Gateway Arch the freeway dips into what us known as the “depressed lanes.”  Depressing indeed. For years now the political establishment has been talking about the idea of a lid over the sunken highway lanes.  Sounds simple enough, just put a lid over the top.

The problem is, “lid” is the wrong word.  The correct word is tunnel.  A lid implies you might use a crane to set it in place just as the final piece of the adjacent Arch was set.  But for our officials to keep saying lid is misleading.  They want to put the highway into a new tunnel.

Entrance to Highway 67/Lindbergh Blvd Tunnel
Entrance to Highway 67/Lindbergh Blvd Tunnel

The Highway 67/Lindbergh tunnel under the extended runways at Lambert Airport is probably the closest example to what will be required next to the Arch.  Hardly a lid.  The ventilation and security requirements of this tunnel contributed to the billion dollar runway price tag.  Ouch.

The extensive tunneling required for the latest MetroLink expansion drove up the price tag for that project.  Face it, tunnels are expensive.  In many cases, too expensive.

I can’t help but think of the biggest of the big in terms of tunnel projects:

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the U.S. Although the project was estimated in 1985 at $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006),[3] over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars) had been spent in federal and state tax dollars as of 2006. A July 17, 2008 article in The Boston Globe stated, “In all, the project will cost an additional $7 billion in interest, bringing the total to a staggering $22 billion, according to a Globe review of hundreds of pages of state documents. It will not be paid off until 2038.”  (Source: Wikipedia)

Estimates of under $3 billion but ending up over $22 billion.  Our tunnel will not have the complexity of Boston’s Big Dig but I think that project serves as a lesson for cost overruns and delays to completion.  Our own Cross County Metrolink expansion is a local lesson on costs and completion deadlines.

At least in Boston the Big Dig addressed how their Central Artery freeway had divided their city.

Boston, January 2008
Boston, January 2008

Above is one of many points where the former elevated freeway divided Boston.  Their expensive tunnel resolved the division issues not for a mere 3 blocks but for more than a mile.

But in St. Louis our tunnel would resolve access to the Arch grounds at the center only.  My solution, first advanced in August 2005, is to remove the freeway lanes once I-70 is routed across the new river bridge currently being planned:

So imagine the existing I-70 removed from the PSB to the new bridge (North of Laclede’s Landing & the proposed Bottle District). In its place a wide and grand boulevard lined with trees and shops. The adjacent street grid is reconnected at every block. Pedestrians can easily cross the boulevard not only at the Arch but anywhere along the distance between the bridges. Eads Bridge and the King Bridge both land cars onto the boulevard and into then dispersed into the street grid. The money it would take to cover I-70 for 3 blocks in front of the Arch can go much further not trying to cover an interstate highway. Joining the riverfront and Laclede’s Landing to the rest of downtown will naturally draw people down Washington Avenue to the riverfront.

In one bold decision we can take back our connection to the river that shaped our city. The decision must be made now. The interchange for the new bridge is being designed now — we’ve only got one chance to get it right. Similarly, the lid project in front of the Arch could shift to a removed I-70 and connecting boulevard design before we are too far along the current path.

We are at a crossroads at this point with three major projects involving billions of dollars and affecting St. Louis for at least the next half century. Removing I-70 would, in twenty years, be seen as a pivotal decision. Will our government leaders have the courage to make such a decision?

In the four years since I wrote those words more people agree.  Some are banding together to sell the concept to the region, moving the idea forward.  Property owners along this section of interstate that will no longer be I-70 favor the idea.  The problem is our leadership is still stuck on the costly lid concept.  They want to address 3 blocks rather than 30 blocks — for 10 times the cost.  Sounds about like St. Louis’ leadership.

The problem is they have….well…tunnel vision.  They see only a problem at the center of the Arch whereas most of us see the access problem along the length of the highway as it slices through downtown. Examples of problems that will not be addressed by a tunnel:

We can fix all of the above with a tree-lined boulevard.  Remember, this 1.5 mile stretch will no longer be I-70.  Those drivers using these lanes as a pass through can still use the boulevard to get North-South.  The choice is simple, repair a large portion of the downtown and near North side where it has been divided by a 1.5 mile long stretch of highway or focus on 3 blocks for at least twice the price.  The solution is a no-brainer to me.

The first thing we must do is get our officials to stop insulting our intelligence with the overly simplistic “lid” idea.  The highway is not a Tupperware container that you can just close up with a simple snap-on lid.  Even if the price tag were the same, the boulevard concept reconnects much more of the city — 1.5 miles vs. 3 blocks.

Unfortunately our officials are all talking the same 3 block tunnel.  Many have a say from the Mayor to MoDOT to the National Park Service.  Getting them to be open to other, more encompassing, solutions will be challenging.

Take this week’s poll in the right sidebar to vote on how to reconnect the city to the river.

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. stlzou says:

    Im a long time listener, first time caller. It seems to be a no brainer to me, and I understand the costs of building the tunnel would surely be greater and have less effect, but what would the costs be of removing a two mile section of highway, filling it, and constructing a grand blvd? Because it seems to me that this is not necessarily an either/or proposition. It seems to me like it is a maybe this, maybe that, but probably nothing deal. If it can be waved off as costly either way, there will be many forces trying to garner support against investment in the city. Removing the highway from the riverfront in this manner seems like a very logical and productive solution that could benefit not only downtown, but the whole metro area. Yet it seems there are many who would rather see the city fail than invest in it in a way that could benefit themselves if it means their cynicism is proven wrong.

     
  2. Jay says:

    I’ve thought for a long time that removing the depressed section is a far better option than the lid. When the new river bridge is built, the need for the current I-70 ramps will go away and the interchange can be reconfigured to add an extra lane to the current I-55 ramps. Access to/from downtown would have to be reworked, I think there’s enough room near Spruce St and Memorial to make that work.

    State support will be needed to get rid of the depressed section and the best way to make that happen is to get a new boulevard included in the regions Long Range Transportation Plan which is put together by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. The plan must be updated every four years and it’s about time for an update. Currently EWG is doing the Renewing the Region Initiative as a kick-off to the new Long Range Plan development. It’s at least something worth taking a look at.

    http://www.ewgateway.org/ProgProj/RenewingTheRegion/renewingtheregion.htm

     
  3. The group of people banding together is called the City to River Group, and it has a Google listserve that is free and open to all for discussion of how to advance the idea of removing I-70 downtown. (A website is on the way.)

     
  4. Ginger Harris says:

    Steve,

    Interesting idea you’re proposing in lieu of the depressed lanes and the “lid”: “a wide and grand boulevard lined with trees and shops. The adjacent street grid is reconnected at every block.”

    However, where will the shops be located in the 3-block area lining Gateway Arch grounds? Will all the bldgs on the west side of Memorial Drive/3rd Streets be torn down and rebuilt to face your proposed boulevard?

    What if instead of “a wide and grand boulevard” we build as much of a new city block as we can squeeze in over the former depressed lanes (and possibly build parking under the new bldgs), while rebuilding Memorial and 3rd Streets as “skinny streets” that invite pedestrians and cyclists, sorta like Kirkwood Road going through Kirkwood business district and Lockwood Rd going through Webster Groves business district?

    While you’re at it, can we think about where in downtown we’d like to have parades occur, and design the streetscape with that occasional purpose in mind? Everytime a group schedules a parade downtown, the parade disrupts bus lines and requires a lot of effort on the part of Metro Transit to redesign the bus routes and attempt to inform passengers about the interrupted hours or day — an enormous burden. Granted, many bus routes were removed from downtown when transit service was retrenched due to the failure of the County’s transit tax ballot measure, but buses will (hopefully) come back to downtown, and future parades will disrupt them. How about creating a pact (or city ordinance) that specifies that all parades east of Jefferson use a circular route that includes Leonor K. Sullivan/Wharf Street, Poplar St. (under the bridge), 3rd St./Memorial Drive, and either Washington Ave or a less-steep street farther north? This would pull spectators into the Arch Grounds (which City Fathers think is underutilized), and others could watch from the heights of the tall bldgs west of Memorial Dr. Also, since the Arch grounds and Laclede’s Landing are excellently served by MetroLink, we could have large turnouts for parades without requiring as much parking space as is now required.

    I’d love to hear your reactions to these ideas.

    [slp — glad you asked because it gives me a chance to elaborate further. The new boulevard would require only half to 2/3 of the total area devoted to the current highway & streets. The additional land would give room to build new “liner” buildings against the backs of the existing facing the boulevard. In some cases we may raze an building that backs to the arch but a row of 2-4 story buildings opposite the Arch grounds would be prime real estate. Maybe I’d finally get my Apple Store. A wide tree-lined sidewalk along the boulevard would include retail as well as many sidewalk cafes. A few small shops could sell bottled water and St . Louis t-shirts. I can picture it.]

     
  5. Puggg says:

    I agree. One other argument against a tunnel is that they are expensive to maintain, too. The I-10 tunnel under central Phoenix, which is longer than a theoretical tunneled depressed section of 70, costs a half million a year to maintain.

    [slp — Great point on maintenance costs. We already have enough infrastructure that we can’t maintain.]

     
  6. Eddy1701 says:

    Sounds like quite a sensible and well-conceived proposal, Steve. So why does the leadership get stuck on lesser ideas like that lid? From what I hear, Saint Louis sounds plagued with some consummate ignoramuses for politicians.

    [slp — Thank you. It seems someone influential 30+ years ago mentioned a lid so they don’t feel the need to look for other ideas. Besides, I didn’t go to high school in St. Louis so despite my 19 years of residency I’m an outsider. Ironically, if I was an out of town consultant they’d listen to me.]

     
  7. Murph says:

    Where will the cars currently using that stretch of I-70 go? They all won’t vanish.

    What about potential ramifications on industrial businesses located north and south of Downtown (many of which are concentrated along I-70 and I-55)? By eliminating a major transportation connection, we’re giving businesses reliant upon truck transportation another reason to relocate outside the City. Perhaps nobody cares about keeping those types of businesses viable in the City?

    By the way, I’m not necessarily against this idea. It’s just clearly not a “no-brainer” solution as suggested by this post.

     
  8. Les says:

    While I agree with the sentiments expressed here about the lid, I’m not sure that the solution is to bring I-70 to the surface either. It will still carry significant traffic from I-64, I-55 and I-44 and all of the memorial drive traffic. Also, if the four lanes of memorial drive impose a barrier between downtown and the arch grounds, how will an eight-lane boulevard be an improvement? If indeed a portion or the entirety of memorial drive can be closed and traffic shifted to other downtown streets, that will leave unfettered pedestrian access to the arch grounds and potentially allow for a change of character for the buildings that now show their backside to the arch.

     
  9. Jimmy Z says:

    I support the boulevard concept from the urban design perspective, but I doubt the feds at the DOT will buy the idea of adding any stoplights to an existing freeway (from a pure safety standpoint – see the truck wreck that happened a week ago on northbound 55). The only way to make this happen is to pull this portion out of the highway out of the Interstate system, which will require a lot more local (city and state) funding to make any of the proposed changes, and potentially may require repaying the feds for the money they’ve spent to build and maintain the depressed highway up until to now. The real key to making the plan happen lies with the National Park Service, since their support is critical and they can, potentially, recapture some, if not all, of any federal funding that would disappear with the removal of an Interstate designation.

    A good parallel resource: http://www.8664.org/

     
  10. anon says:

    For this to work, the powers that be, including city fathers, will have to endorse it. They are a much tougher crowd than MODOT or the feds.

     
  11. john says:

    There was once a time when your DREAMS were big. Then all the urban highways inside of 270 would be removed and become grand boulevards. The desire of having a prosperous, livable and sustainable communities are over as proven by the designs of the New 64 and the Metro Extension.
    – –
    Local-state leadership has made their priorities clear: support trucking, private motorized travel and Main Streets as highways. Even Danforth has “given up” and your DREAMS have shrunk concomitant with your time in the Lou.
    – –
    If Lou leadership (elected officials, EWGC, CC and StL County) its citizenry readily supported alternatives for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit then perhaps your DREAMS could become real. But given our history and McKee’s grand plans, trucking will become much more of an influence over public assets. Even MoDOT wants to expand 70 to include special lanes for trucks only and is readily sharing-promoting the idea with federal officials. WAKE UP, you reside in a region that worships motorized vehicles and their leaders respect and support this religion. Only Peak Oil can change this, not the wishes of a few bloggers.

     
  12. More Cars says:

    “WAKE UP, you reside in a region that worships motorized vehicles and their leaders respect and support this religion. Only Peak Oil can change this, not the wishes of a few bloggers.”

    Exactly the kind of talk that keeps this region where it is. You don’t happen to be one of our elected leaders do you? Sound like it.

     
  13. More Cars says:

    “WAKE UP, you reside in a region that worships motorized vehicles and their leaders respect and support this religion. Only Peak Oil can change this, not the wishes of a few bloggers.”

    Exactly the kind of talk that keeps this region where it is. You don’t happen to be one of our elected leaders ? Sound like it.

     
  14. James R. says:

    People (Murph and Les) have to remember that this boulevard plan is contingent on having the new I-70 bridge across the Mississippi. Once that happens, the traffic along that section of highway will be lessened. Really, who will use that section? Folks on the South Side trying to get to the airport? With a new bridge, there is very little reason any remaining traffic can’t be re-routed. How is this any different than someone at South County Mall trying to go to the Galleria? And aren’t there already attempts to route trucks around rather that through urban areas except for local delivery?

     
  15. john w. says:

    @Jimmy Z- Though I have no statistics and am frankly uninterested in them, I dismiss completely your warning about stop lights interrupting the flow of interstate traffic. Anyone travelling on the toll Highway (94?) in the Chicago metro area or any other metro toll road is quite familiar with multiple lanes of highway speed traffic slowing to filter through the toll plaza. The effective warnings provide motorists with ample time to reduce speed as necessary. It’s not as if there would be a sudden traffic signal in the flow of highway speed traffic.

     
  16. zigblaster says:

    The boulevard concept is intriguing. Before / after birds eye perspective renderings are needed to capture the public’s imagination and support.

    Louisville advocates are trying to create support for a riverfront boulevard rather than a roadway expansion that creates a downtown spaghetti junction. There’s an excellent website:

    http://www.8664.org/

     
  17. Jimmy Z says:

    John, there’s a big difference between an existing toll road and adding traffic lights to what is currently an unsignalized stretch of interstate highway. The whole point of the interstate system is to move large volumes of traffic without stoplights. My only point is that if we, as a city and a region, decide that a boulevard is a better solution to our needs than a freeway, then we need to accept that there will be less funding from Washington. This is exactly what happened in both Portland and San Francisco, where existing interstates were removed.

    The typical funding ratio for interstates is 90% federal and 10% local, the typical funding ratio for federal “U.S.” highways is 50/50, and, obviously, state and local highways is all state, county and/or city money. That’s why the city and the county are more than willing to let the state pay for some of the maintenance on roads like Gravois and Page Ave. Is it a “deal breaker”? Absolutely not, it’s a choice . . .

     
  18. john w. says:

    Jim,

    There’s plenty of advance roadway in both the northbound and southbound directions to provide drivers with an effective warning to a reduced speed zone, just like there is at the toll plazas, so I don’t see the big difference. I have no issue with your point about the funding sources, and rocks and hard places. A convincing presentation of the idea of a boulevard needs to happen soon, so that the powers-that-be can both see the proposal and then explain why they believe the lid is not only better in their estimation, but also a foregone conclusion.

     
  19. Matt says:

    Jim Z, the idea is to completely eliminate the interstate lanes, not bring the highway to the surface. Through traffic would still be allowed, just not at interstate speeds and obstruction free. With proper signal timing, you could go right through with only 1 or no stops anyway.

     
  20. Les says:

    Actually, I’m quite familiar with traffic patterns, forecasts, etc. Both professionally and personally. Much of the I-70 related traffic is already diverted onto the King Bridge. While the new bridge will reduce volume somewhat, there will still be some heavy volumes between I-70 and I-55/44. Further, the problem that spurred the entire discussion of the lid/I-70 was the barrier between downtown and the archgrounds/riverfront. If crossing four lanes of traffic is hazardous now (and it is indeed), how is eight lanes an “improvement?” I think the real barrier is Memorial Drive and the elevated lanes to the north, not the depressed lanes.

     
  21. Anon says:

    The problem with the depressed lanes is not just the barrier effect but also the way they break up the visual continuity of the area. An at grade boulevard or promenade would be a proper setting to have in front of a landmark. A grand boulevard, a grand entrance, for a grand city and a grand landmark. A new, mile long, Memorial Drive would reconnect the downtown area in a way closing 3 blocks of Memorial Drive cannot.

     
  22. Jimmy Z says:

    To clarify, I LIKE the concept of a parkway replacing the interstate, I just have real concerns about finding the money to make it happen, along with secondary concerns about its impact on traffic passing through downtown. We can talk “ivory tower” solutions all we want, but they will remain just that, talk, unless we address the pragmatic questions, as well.

    There are three logical scenarios I can see happening. One is the “no build”, do nothing answer – don’t change much of anything, inertia rules, and it’s the cheapest “solution”. Two, put a lid on it. There’s a reason that “our officials are all talking the same 3 block tunnel”. This option is probably the next cheapest from the local perspective, assuming the feds are willing to pay 90% of its cost. And while it would require technically extending I-44 up to the new I-70 bridge connection, to maintain an interstate highway designation, it solves many of the access and urban design issues around the arch, with few impacts on existing traffic patterns. No, it won’t do anything for the area under the PSB ramps or for the mess o’ highways separating Laclede’s Landing from America’s Center, but there is no real, organized constituency pushing for changes there, either.

    Three, replace the existing depressed interstate highway with an urban boulevard. I-44 would end at I-55, and I-55 & I-64 would share the Poplar Street Bridge south of the arch, while I-70 would use the new bridge north of the arch, connecting with I-55 & I-64 in East St. Louis. There would be NO interstate connection between I-70 and I-55 or I-64 in downtown St. Louis; drivers wanting to make that connection could choose from multiple surface streets, including Memorial Drive, 4th/Broadway, Truman/Tucker or Jefferson/Parnell/Salisbury, or they could loop around through Illinois, crossing the Mississippi twice. Memorial Drive would end up looking and acting much like Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. There obviously IS a growing constituency pushing this option, and there are many valid urban design reasons why this would improve downtown.

    Given our experiences with closure of I-64 for its reconstruction, the elimination of the depressed section would likely be very similar – much whining before it happens, but traffic will find its way, with few negative impacts anywhere downtown. That leaves only the “show me the money” part. The feds will likely to be very willing to walk away from this ½-mile stretch, spending their money elsewhere. I doubt the state will see any need to create a new state highway here, leaving the city to fund the full conversion cost. I’m guessing at least $2 million in today’s dollars, and likely more. Can Mayor Slay and/or the economic development groups convince the voters to aprove a bond issue to do this? Either as a stand-alone project or as a part of a package of projects that benefit other parts of the city? Or can a downtown-improvement district get voter approval, with a dedicated local sales tax, much like how the streetcar is being funded between U City and Forest Park? Find the money in the existing city budget? Or something else? Every city has a history of great ideas that end up on shelves. The ones that happen are the ones that have champions who can cobble the funding together to actually make ’em happen . . .

     
  23. Jennifer says:

    The removal of the city-dividing interstate in Portland was the beginning of the grand renaissance of the city. Grand gestures are great and symbolic, but that wasn’t the only thing going on in Portland to make the revival happen. I worry a bit about this issue becoming a big empty symbol in St. Louis. Removing the interstate from the riverfront is a very good idea, but it’s only one part of what needs to happen: a regional plan that is focused on urban infill, denser zoning, lower parking requirements, better transit infrastructure, etc. Let me say again: Getting the interstate off the riverfront is a good thing, and it could be a grand symbol of St. Louis’s urban renaissance. But there are a hundred small changes that need to happen, and could honestly do as much good, as one grand gesture like this.

    That said, whatever gets done on this boulevard should be scaled for bikes and pedestrians first, with cars as a necessary component. Too often alternate transport like two-wheels or feet are incorporated reluctantly, or as an afterthought.

     
  24. Jennifer says:

    Good points as usual, Jimmy. Money talks. I think the state government can be talked into funding these types of improvements, though, because the cities are the economic engines that turn the wheels of the state. The simple fact of creating prime real estate like that alone, with all the taxes that businesses located there will bring in, is enough to make it worthwhile financially. We just have to have big dreamers who have practical, deal-making friends. And isn’t bringing those people together the whole benefit of this internets thingy?

    Let’s all dream big here, together.

     
  25. Angelo says:

    If the interstate is a Federal Project, wouldn’t it be the Feds, not Saint Louis, that would maintain the tunnel? This won’t be coming out the city budget, will it?

     
  26. Brian says:

    Somehow Lakeshore Drive in Chicago manages to carry more vehicles at-grade than this “depressed section.” However, replace I-70 with a true Memorial Drive, then this transportation professional (who used to work for Les) assures you that much of the through-traffic would go elsewhere. Given less traffic, the replacement wouldn’t need to be eight lanes, though maybe six. But even Michigan Avenue has six lanes. So does The Embarcadero. And of course, The Embarcadero’s six-lane boulevard is a huge improvement over the former freeway.

    It’s also an improvement over the one-way couplet (may as well be outer/frontage/service roads) there today because good street walls (another essential part of Steve’s concept) will provide what us transportation professionals call “friction” and “visual cues” for the motorists to slow down. Even absent those street walls (hopefully not), you still have some friction being opposite a very unique place, be it Millennium Park, Fisherman’s Wharf, or the Gateway Arch. Add on-street parking, smaller blocks, and clear crosswalks, this won’t be a place to speed through easily. Coordinate the signals so that those traveling through at a safe speed only hit one red, then it won’t be such a pain for motorists either.

    Finally, it may not even need to be six lanes. More progressive transportation professionals have learned to better balance congestion with overall livability. As a general rule, don’t widen any more than what is needed so a motorist misses more than two signal cycles averaged over the two worst hours of peak travel. In the past, roads were designed to handle peak traffic in one cycle as needed in the single worst hour. That doesn’t cut it if you’re designing intersections for all users, especially where a high number of pedestrians are expected.

     
  27. James R says:

    I was actually kind of assuming you were that Les 😉 and do agree that the elevated sections are as bad if not the worst of the barriers the highway creates. How do you change that without the Boulevard concept? I’m going to assume that burying and lidding the whole thing is out of the question. If it weren’t for the elevated section, I wouldn’t be as worked up about the lid. I’m just convinced now that it is solving less than 1/2 of the problem.

    4, 6, 8 or however many lanes of a Grand Boulevard we would end up with, a design with the pedestrian in mind would be a much better experience than the tall curbs, narrow sidewalks, and low rails we have now.

     
  28. john w. says:

    What we have now is shit.

     
  29. Anon says:

    Bill Hannegan, what do you think of building the Lid or filling in the depressed lanes, ditching the interstate, and replacing the whole thing with a new, at grade, urban boulevard?

     
  30. Dave says:

    Good post Jimmy Z.

    I too have jumped on the bandwagon of completely removing I-70 between I-44/55 and I-70 to the north once the new bridge is built. However, I disagree with the notion that we need a large volume “boulevard” in it’s place.

    I think the greatest concern would be with truck traffic needing to get from I-44/55 east/northbound to I-70 westbound or in the opposite direction. My solution: I-270/I-255. We already have an 8-10 lane interstate looping around our entire metro area. Just as the region has with the closing of I-64, traffic will find another way to get to their destination.

    Instead of putting a “boulevard” in it’s place, the city should buy/transfer the land from the government and then pay to remove this section of I-70. Recouping the costs should be easy: sell the land to private developers for new mid or high-rise development. Every single land parcel will have Arch views and therefore should fetch a high price. Additionally, the rather narrow block and high land cost would encourage high-rise Class A office space and/or high-end condo/apts. Additionally, modify the current Metrolink proposal to allow it to pass through at grade between the arch grounds and the new land parcels. Also, provide a new city-size street between the existing blocks and these new blocks to continue the street-grid.

    The new buildings could provide street-level retail as well.

     
  31. Anon says:

    I’m disappointed Bill Hannegan hasn’t weighed in on this issue. He’s obviously focused on the smoking ban, but it’s always good to hear from casual observers on various issues.

    If people like Bill, a person who regularly follows this blog, is against or highly skeptical of the plan, then what does that say about the chances of converting the urban unwashed living in South County and beyond?

     
  32. john says:

    The damage has already been done. No amount of dreaming can replace the importance of financial funding and the perceived need for nonstop connectivity for commercial interests. Sprawl has succeeded and now represents the majority of the region’s population.
    – –
    The important alternative needed to funnel N-S traffic away from downtown (closer in than 270) and improve connectivity between interstates were the original plans for 170. It was designed to be the interior connector for 70, 64, 44 and 55 but Buz W. rejected finishing the route 40 years ago. The consequences: Hanley Rd to become the New 141 and the Arch grounds to remain as Danforth described “dominated by the sounds and smells of the vehicle traffic… pedestrians are required to cross three lanes,… high curbs, lack of ADA ramps, narrow sidewalks and low safety rails”. He concludes in his report that the aggregate costs exceed financial resources and therefore “the Mayor’s vision of a distinctive world-class destination and activity center is not feasible. The Foundation is disappointed…”

     
  33. Jimmy Z says:

    By jove, I think Dave’s onto something here – let 4th & Broadway serve as the main north-south connector, and restore the old street grid, converting Memorial Drive back to 3rd Street. Locals will figure out how to get to or through downtown, using any one of many possibilities, and both locals and interstate travellers can “follow the numbers” to stay on the freeways, if they so choose. So what if you have to go over to East St. Louis to get between I-70 and I-44/55/64? It’ll be what, a mile or two longer? I’d trade that, any day, if it eliminates the mess that’s at the west end of the Poplar Street Bridge now. It’s the same logic behind rebuilding I-64 west of downtown – eliminate the bottlenecks and traffic flows a lot more smoothly. We choose freeways for their speed, not because they offer the shortest distance between Point A and Point B!

     
  34. bonwich says:

    I got you beat, Steve. I wrote the following in the P-D in my year-end restaurant roundup in 2003:

    “Our opinion that downtown still represents a great opportunity for development-through-dining brings us to our suggestion for redevelopment: Why not combine all these plans for a new Mississippi River Bridge and a “lid” for I-70 in front of the Arch into a real vision for a reunified downtown?

    “To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: Mr. Slay, Ms. Geisman, Mr. Sterman, Mr. Gephardt, Mr. Danforth or whoever can get it done — tear that wall down! Boston did it with the Big Dig. San Francisco did it with the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway. Their downtowns became whole again. When the new bridge is done, there will be no reason that the aptly named depressed section and the elevated portion of I-70 that amputates Laclede’s Landing should remain highway. We’re restoring the original street grid around the new stadium, so why not fix the northeast quadrant of downtown while we’re at it?

    “It’ll cost a lot of money, but so will all the infrastructure for a potential new casino on Laclede’s Landing, and we’re wagering that the reconnection of the Landing to downtown would have a lot more benefit for the dozens of bars and restaurants that have done their best to make a go of it down there for the many years since the Landing was first redeveloped.”

    I’m not noting this to take credit for advancing the cause before you did. We talked about the outdatedness of the “Lid” way back in the early Metropolis days. Rick Bonasch has been talking about it for about a decade, and even Charlie Brennan has pointed out the shortsightedness of not coordinating the I-70 bridge construction with the reconnection of the Arch and Laclede’s Landing to downtown.

    But like I said in the thread a few weeks ago about pedestrian safety: NOBODY WHO CAN DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT CARES. I wrote that almost six years ago. Have you ever heard Mr. Slay, Ms. Geisman, Mr. Sterman, Mr. Gephardt, Mr. Danforth or any of our other civic “leadership” even float the idea?

    I’m pleased to hear about the City to River group. I’m skeptical that they’ll get anything besides a polite hearing and a nice pat on the head, the same way dozens of others with good ideas but no tickets to the VP Ball have been treated on this issue for several years now.

    P.S. Bonus question: Does anyone remember who put forth the first modern model for a “lid” concept?

     
  35. Med Darnell says:

    These responses don’t solve any problems at all, but produce further problems. The answers to these problems of urban design and the highway debacles are completely answered in the Highways, Bridges and Roads forum on this subject.

     
  36. Med Darnell says:

    I’d like to add some additional insight into this particular blog. Steve Patterson states that the new bridge system eliminates the highway section I-70 from the new bridge to the Poplar Street Bridge. Well, this is not true, as MoDot, according to their strategic plan, intends to leave the highway system between these two points, just as it is and rename this section I-44 instead of I-70, which will technically end at the new bridge system. A tree-lined boulevard is not in the plans, as Steve surmises should ‘replace’ the highway. This in turn will create innumerable traffic and logistics problems in the system, as it sets. The ‘tunnel’ system from the I-44 interchange, in Soulard, to the new bridge addresses and solves all of the problems on any subject pertaining to this debacle. All of the answers are found in the Highways, Bridges and Roads Forum, concerning this subject of a double tiered tunnel system. The grand tree-lined parkway, ‘on top of this tunnel system’ would work beautifully, with principle developments abutting it, after the fact. The total financial package principle development along this ‘Parkway Boulevard’ would be in the neighborhood of $25-30 billion. This alone should open the eyes of all politicians and developers as to the potential of a complete tunnel system from Soulard versus a 3-block tunnel system-called the ‘lid’. It justifies the expenditure of funds needed to construct the ‘Soulard to the new bridge’ tunnel system. All traffic problems are solved and the neighborhoods are reconnected, as well as the Arch and landing grounds. You just can’t eliminate this ‘highway section’ (Poplar Street Bridge to the new bridge) and be done with it. The ‘nightmare trucking and traffic problems’ resulting from this discontinuity, would be horrific. The traffic that you eliminate at the new bridge would quad-druple your traffic problem coming back over the Poplar Street Bridge to pick the highway system back up, going south. You don’t even know what a ‘nightmare’ traffic problem is until you take the highway system out of play between the Poplar Street Bridge and the new bridge, with no ‘relief valve’ alternate to compensate for this disconnect. That’s why their must be a highway throughput between the two bridge systems, as this tunnel system from Soulard to the new bridge facilitates. Like I said in the Highway, Road and Bridge Forum, the pure folly and foolishness of running a highway system to Illinois and then back again to Missouri to avoid 1000′ of depressed highway pavement is the engineering laughing stock of the United States. Plain and simple the tunnel system solves everything. Anything short of it is disconnect and continued traffic debacle, only to increase in the future.

     
  37. Interesting how the discussion is framed as either or.

    Has anyone considered either a Fort Washington Way solution, even combined with a boulevard atop, or the latter for the area along the stadium to avoid the need for a deeper tunnel segment to pass below the railroad crossing?

     
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