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Edwardsville’s Pedestrian Tunnel for High School Students

IMG_4872.jpgWhy did the student not cross the road? Because they were chicken? No, because they have a new $480,000 pedestrian tunnel in place of the former shuttle buses. And it is against school policy for them to walk across the two lane street in front of the high school. Seriously, I’m not making this up!

Last June I did a brief post on the planned tunnel after reading an article in the Belleville News-Democrat. This past Saturday morning I visited the now finished tunnel on a tour of Edwardville, Illinois (map).

So, there it is on the right: the long walk under Center Grove Rd with the massive high school campus in the background. Remember the days when you could walk or bike to school? Those times seem long gone. Now students drive their own cars to school and in Edwardsville some students, roughly 200, have to park across the street and walk under the street to get to the campus.

IMG_4875.jpgDon’t look for any steps or walkway to get you from the south side of Center Grove Rd down to the tunnel, it is assumed that nobody walks in this part of town. Probably true enough, it is nothing but tacky buildings set in individual seas of parking.

I should also point out the tunnel was planned from day one. It wasn’t built until this summer because they just received the funding to construct it. So when planning a new high school campus the concept of say placing it closer to walkable areas seems to have been ruled out. I’m actually told the school district is much larger than the City of Edwardsville and that the schools is pretty centered within the district. The solution then becomes two smaller high schools rather than one large high school. You can point to additional costs to do that but that can be countered with the additional costs of sprawl and, in this case, a pedestrian tunnel.

IMG_4878.jpgThis is Center Grove Rd looking west from the parking lot entrance. That is not a sidewalk you see to the left of the road, it is the shoulder of the roadbed. You can see some of the recently built sprawl in the background. What a horrible environment they are subjecting their impressionable youth.

Sadly, they are in effect teaching kids pedestrians and streets don’t mix.

– Steve


Edwardsville HS To Build Tunnel To Get Students From Parking

Edwardsville IL High SchoolFor a minute I thought I was reading the great satire from The Onion but a quick glance confirmed I was reading the Belleville News-Democrat. The topic: It seems Edwardsville’s high school is going to spend $480,000 on a tunnel so they can stop busing students from an overflow parking lot across the street to the high school building. Why you ask? Apparently the road is too dangerous to cross. In fact, it is against school policy for students to cross the road.

District 7 Superintendent Ed Hightower stood with State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, Edwardsville Mayor Gary Niebur and Glen Carbon Mayor Rob Jackstadt to announce a $384,000 grant. The grant will cover 80 percent of the cost of the $480,000 tunnel. Hightower said the tunnel has been part of the overall plan for the Edwardsville High campus since its inception. [emphasis mine]

So from day one they planned such a sprawling campus on a road lined with sprawling subdivisions that a tunnel would be the best solution. Remember when small college towns were charming and quaint? It seems they like sprawl as much as the bigger urban areas.

The tunnel will provide a lighted, video-monitored walkway for students who park at the stadium lot and must cross Center Grove Road to get to the high school. Currently, more than 200 sophomores and juniors park at the stadium across the street from the high school and ride buses across the street, which sees more than 14,000 cars per day.

Students are forbidden to try to cross the street on foot, and are faced with a three-day in-school suspension if they are caught doing so, according to student council president Mallory Smith.

“It’s a major problem,” Mallory said, especially for students who stay late for events or meetings. Once the buses stop running, they must wait up to half an hour for someone to take them across in a golf cart.

A golf cart? You see why I thought this was something the crazy folks at The Onion came up with. The school is in the top half of the picture at right while the stadium and extra parking are on the lower half, south of Center Grove Road.

This is wrong on so many levels. First, looking at the map you can see that Edwardsville, a small college town with a cute downtown, has sprawled beyond belief. The resulting high school campus is equally sprawling and auto centric. To be fair to the high school, the college campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), doesn’t really relate to the town either. It is bad when our metropolitan areas experience sprawl but perhaps it is even worse when small towns get in on the act with disconnected cul-de-sacs, strip malls and big box centers all reachable only by car.

– Steve


Latest Mississippi River Bridge Proposal Getting Warmer

In the past I’ve been a vocal critic of the mammoth Mississippi River Bridge proposal that originally was going to exceed a billion dollars. Recent revisions shaved that down to $900 million and some change. Besides the cost, I was not happy with the implications of the bridge ramps cutting into the near North side.

Thankfully Missouri has refused to fund their share of the project. Missouri has said the only way we can afford the project is if tolls are collected. Illinois complained it would then prove too costly for their residents as they would end up paying twice — once to fund Illinois’ portion and second as the main users paying tolls.

landing_bridgeThe stalemate has forced what may be a logical compromise. From yesterday’s Post-Dispatch:

Illinois is moving forward with an alternative to a new Mississippi River bridge – one that’s about half as big, about half as expensive, and would get around Missouri’s efforts to pay for the structure with tolls.A source familiar with the idea said the Illinois Department of Transportation has a conceptual plan in hand for a coupler bridge beside the existing Martin Luther King Bridge. The additional structure would carry four lanes of traffic, all of them westbound. Crews would renovate the existing King Bridge to carry three lanes, all eastbound. Currently, the bridge carries four narrow lanes.

I like the concept! It increases the lane capacity across the river yet without breaking the bank or decimating neighborhoods (well, hopefully not). This is, of course, the plan they should have come up with back in 2001. It might well be under construction at this point had they not gone off the deep end with such a wild scheme.

As with prior concepts, I-70 would be directed to this new bridge coupler. The idea being it would reduce traffic along the stretch of highway between downtown and the Arch as well as reduce traffic on the Poplar Street Bridge (I-64). I’m just not sure what this new concept will do to Laclede’s Landing.

With a new bridge built North of the existing King Bridge it opens a number of questions. How close to the current King bridge and what is in the way?

If immediately to the North of the existing King Bridge you’ll find an existing hotel as well as the horrible new casino project, under construction, in the path. Both are ugly so I suppose I wouldn’t mind. The dock for the President Casino is also a visual travesty so no loss there. However, I can’t see much savings by having to buy out these properties.

So will Illinois propose the new Westbound bridge land somewhat to the North such as inline with Carr or Biddle Streets? If so, this has some pros and cons. On the plus side it avoids having to buy out some expensive real estate. On the con side it further divides an area that has potential to become a real neighborhood. Keeping all the traffic confined near the existing King bridge would allow the area to the North to become more defined and a cohesive neighborhood with access to the North Riverfront Trail.

Here are some related prior posts:

  • Laclede’s Landing, December 2004 (includes rendering of casino and foul language)
  • Mississippi River Bridge, January 2005
  • Riverfront makeover, July 2005
  • Riverfront, I-70 lid and Mississippi River Bridge; August 2005
  • Mayor Slay on Bridge, August 2005
  • Mississippi River Bridge, November 2005
  • Mississippi River Bridge, the numbers, November 2005
  • I’ve written a lot more on this subject than I realized! Nothing gets me going like a billion dollars being spent on bad auto-centric planning. I’m just really curious to see what the proposal looks like on both the Missouri and Illinois sides. What are your thoughts on this latest twist?

    – Steve


    Belleville’s Liese Lumber Using Biodiesel in Delivery Trucks

    Local lumberyard Liese Lumber has taken a bold & progressive step — it is now running it’s 14 delivery trucks on 11% biodiesel. I spoke with owner Tom Lippert by phone today and he said the reasons were twofold. First, the cost of the fuel is less than regular diesel (the soybean-based biodiesel is subsidized by the state of Illinois). The second reason is his staff saves time by not going to filling stations — they have the biodiesel fuel delivered to them and kept in a storage tank. They’ve been running the biodiesel since July 2005.

    Liese Lumber has two locations in Belleville IL, one at 319 E. Main and another at 2200 S. Belt. Liese Lumber mainly services contractors but they are also open for consumer business. But their hours of 7am to 5pm Monday — Friday are not consumer friendly.

    Thankfully the biodiesel in their trucks is friendly both to the environment, helps local soybean farmers and helps reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Congrats to Liese Lumber for taking this important first step.

    Next time I’m buying something from a company that will need to be delivered I’m going to ask if they use biodiesel in their delivery trucks. The more we ask the more we can impact our own future.

    – Steve




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