Home » Downtown »Planning & Design »Transportation » Currently Reading:

Poll: Do You Agree The Highway Lanes Cutting Through Downtown Should Be Replaced With A Boulevard?

August 22, 2010 Downtown, Planning & Design, Transportation 8 Comments
ABOVE: view of the arch from North 4th St. Vibrant, huh?

The City+Arch+River competition has me thinking more and more about the future of St. Louis without the poorly placed highway slicing through downtown.  I’m so thankful the planned downtown highway loop at 22nd Street never got built, but we still have to address the one that did get built.

If you are at the Old Courthouse and you want to get to the Arch the crossing of Memorial Drive and the highway lanes in a ditch are not that bad.  But that is only one spot along a 1.4 mile stretch of highway City to River wants to replace with a boulevard.

ABOVE:The Arch is close but yet so far given the obstacles.

Four out of five competition finalists mention highway removal in their narratives, noting a boulevard was not included into their designs because of the October 2015 deadline. The 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch is Wednesday October 28, 2015.   So the question of timing is important.

There are several possible times to rip up the old depressed & elevated highway lanes.

  1. The day after the opening of the new I-70 bridge, you could call the press back for a ground breaking on the removal of the existing highway.
  2. The same event/week as the 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch would also work well
  3. Years after the 50th anniversary

Spring 2014:

Tearing out the highway in the Spring of 2014 makes a lot of sense. When the new I-70 bridge is built the interchange could be designed to transition from interstate to boulevard. Work on the connection to Tucker will be done along with the new bridge. The removal of the old I-70 lanes could be phased — part before the anniversary celebration and part after.  For example, the elevated section and section at grade up to Cass could be done by the 10/2015 deadline and used with the existing depressed section.  Or the reverse.  Either way the opening of the new I-70 bridge is the perfect timing to go right into removing the old I-70.

Fall 2015:

This option waits until after the 50th anniversary celebration on October 28, 2015. Like the year before, everyone will be gathered together — this would be a great time to break ground on a new boulevard.

Either way, the traffic study needs to get started immediately. Various people and organizations have already agreed to fund the necessary traffic study but they were waiting to see what happened with the competition.  I’d have started it months ago, but they were concerned the teams might be against highway removal.  Well we know now they are not against removal.  Why wait for the final selection, get the consultants busy figuring out how to best manage the flow of cars once the new I-70 bridge opens.

ABOVE:the current elevated lanes creates the opposite environment envisioned by City to River.

The poll is in the upper right hand corner.  Please vote and add any additional thoughts you may have in the comments below.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. jz71 says:

    Too many options – Yes, No, Maybe/Don’t Know/Need More Info would be enough. In reality, timing will be driven (pardon the pun) by funding, not by any anniversary date.

  2. JZ71 says:

    Too many options. Three would be enough, with “yes”, “no”, “maybe/don't care/need more info” sufficing. While I'm in the yes camp, I see two big hurdles, financing and connections. This will get built ONLY after financing has been identified, much like how it's taken 20 or 40 years to get the new bridge started. We can come up with any notable date we want, but without a big like item in some budget, it ain't happenin'. And two, without some additional ramps on the east side, to provide an all-freeway route, over and back, across the river, confusion will be the reality, since some drivers simply won't use surface streets in either downtown St. Louis or downtown East St. Louis.

    Finally, I think a better option would be to make Broadway and 4th into the connector, as a/the existing one-way couplet, instead of Memorial Drive. With one-way streets, it's much easier to coordinate signals to provide smooth traffic flow (see the Broadway-Lincoln couplet in Denver, from downtown south to/from I-25) AND it would allow the perimeter of the arch grounds to be much more pedestrian friendly, with, potentially, 3- and 4-way stops at minor intersections and a roundabouts at Washington and Memorial Drive. Plus, eliminating ramps for Memorial Drive would simplify things on the freeways, since fewer ramps mean smoother flow.

    • Agreed that 4th & Broadway should play a role in North-South traffic, as well as Tucker. And obviously the budget has to come first. My main objective was to understand the sense of priority for this change. Higher priority items get funded sooner than lower priority ones.

      • JZ71 says:

        Agreed, but I'm not sure if “priority” is the correct term. It's more a matter of an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it mentality”, convincing people that their world won't end if, heaven forbid, some stoplights are added to their drive between the north and south sides of downtown (replacing the all-too-common stop-and-go jamming we now see at peak on a nearly daily basis). Intuitively, a freeway should be quicker (“just add more lanes”), but the reality is much more complex, and what we really need are some good, defensible traffic studies, to justify that the world won't end . . .

        • The funding for the traffic study is in place, the question is when to get it started. I want to ensure the interchange for the new I-70 bridge is boulevard appropriate so that it doesn't need to be redone later when the boulevard happens.

          • James says:

            Full disclosure: I'm one of those loathed, lampooned civil engineers by education, but I embrace the ideals of this blog.

            The interchange design is here: http://www.newriverbridge.org/documents/meeting

            The north end of the boulevard wouldn't have direct access to the bridge without traveling west on Cass to 11th. I'd love to try to come up with a rough idea of what a possible design could be here in my reply, but with only a rudimentary plan view, I have hardly a fraction of the information necessary to present a fully-formed idea.

            IMO, the biggest hurdle after funding (difficulty wise–this will have to come first) is convincing MoDOT to go along with it. This idea is very, very far outside of their box. Unfortunately, they may not even consider doing anything to the lanes until it comes time for a total, ground-up rebuilding (a la I-64.) At that point, after having time to observe how the new bridge handle traffic in practice they may be more receptive. The worse case scenario in this case would be the new bridge encouraging more sprawl in the Metro East and creating a PSB 2.0 traffic situation.

          • Civil engineers have been no better or worse than urban planners and architects. My thoughts on the interchange is not about accessing the bridge when heading north but when heading south that it narrows & slows drivers to go from interstate to boulevard.

          • James says:

            I don't see anything on that page to preclude that. The trickiest thing I see is the 9th & Howard elevated intersection. At Cass the roadway could be brought up to grade for a standard intersection that marks the transition to boulevard.

            Like I said in my last post though, the actual engineering will be the easy part. The hardest part will be funding it and convincing MoDOT–and it's never to early to begin efforts on the latter.


Comment on this Article: