Home » Metro East » Recent Articles:

Collinsville IL May Finally Correct One-Way Main Street Mistake

Downtown Collinsville IL has some very handsome buildings and Main Street is perfectly scaled. The downtown is also near death and has been for years. Despite a streetscape makeover a few years ago, downtown has just not taken off as others have. The difference? Main St in Collinsville is one-way only.

From the Belleville News Democrat:

Business owners are as divided as the City Council on whether Main Street should go back to two-way after Illinois 159 is widened.

The City Council has discussed doing a $70,000 study, as the Illinois Department of Transportation needs to know whether to incorporate a two-way Main Street into its plans for Illinois 159 by January. Though some councilmen had not entirely made up their minds, the council is split on whether to proceed.

It’s the same with business owners, particularly retail businesses on the east end of Main Street. The street was made one-way eastbound in 1969, with neighboring Clay Street one-way westbound, creating the “Collinsville Loop.”

The linked article is a good read, it seems some still think this one-way traffic plan, nearly 40 years in place, is still a good idea. It is, in my view, a major part of what is holding back the potential of Collinsville.

Last September I spent some time in Collinsville on a lovely Saturday afternoon. That morning, downtown Edwardsville just a bit to the north, was hopping. Collinsvile, not so much. A recent visit was pretty much the same thing.


Main street is one-way heading east. Walking on the sidewalk it feels like a highway, not a pedestrian-friendly place to be.





Above, traffic on Main St. can continue east, most turns left for northbound 159.   The volume of traffic crossing Main St. from 159 is huge.  Proponents of returning Mainstreet to two-way traffic correctly cite the fact that 159 traffic is unable to turn onto the bulk of Main St.  What traffic Main St has feels mostly like a pass-through to get to 159.  Regardless of Main St being one or two-way, I’m afraid of how a widened 159 will be passed through downtown Collinsville.  Click here to see all 53 of my images from downtown Collinsville.


Madison County Transit Offers Free Rides, $10 Youth Summer Pass

The folks over at Madison County Transit (MCT) are trying to entice people to ride transit by offering free rides, a try it before you buy it sort of program.  From the press release:

With warm weather fast approaching, Madison County Transit (MCT) is gearing up for its annual Summer Youth Pass program by inviting Madison County youth and their parents to a free ride on a MCT bus from five separate locations throughout the county. These events, which will officially kick-off the Summer Youth Pass season will take place on Saturday May 5 and Saturday May 12:

  • Edwardsville Station: May 5, 2007 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Wood River Station: May 5, 2007 at 11:30 a.m.
  • Collinsville Station: May 12, 2007 at 9:00 a.m.
  • Granite City Station: May 12, 2007 at 11:00 a.m.
  • Alton Square: May 12, 2007 at 1:00 p.m.

Seems like an interesting way to get more riders.  MCT is a bus-only system servicing cities in Madison County and connecting into East St. Louis and Downtown St. Louis.  For more detail see the full press release.


Zoning Error Puts Collinsville IL in Middle of Dispute

Mistakes happen, but they are often costly. The City of Collinsville IL (St. Louis Metro East) is realizing as much. From the Belleville News-Democrat:

The city is facing threats of lawsuits from a new business and from its potential neighbors thanks to an error in a zoning map.

According to City Manager Bob Knabel, the developer sought zoning information about 102 Gaylord Drive before buying it, and was told that it was commercial. The developer later was issued a building permit.

The problem: The zoning map was in error, and the building was in a residential zone.

Now the residents of Gaylord Drive are asking the City Council to stop the construction of a beauty salon in the middle of their residential street.

Oh, not good. No matter which way the city goes they will have a lawsuit on their hands. But the above description of the “middle of their residential street” is not really accurate.


Per Google Maps (and Mapquest) the site in question is on a corner of Gaylord Drive (small street to the left) and a larger arterial street, Vandalia (diagonal upper right to bottom left). As you can see, Vandalia St is lined with suburban commercial establishments in both directions. Residential housing, such as those on Gaylord, also abut Vandalia while some even front on this street. Quite the delima.

The first question I have is if the developer, if they knew it was residentially zoned, could have pursueded the city to rezone the property before purchasing the land? That is, could they have taken out an option and tried to rezone to commercial. Neighbors would have objected but if Collinsville is anything like the rest of the region they would have jumped at the chance to increase their tax base with more commercial property.

The bigger issue is that Vandalia St looks like a hodge podge of pure vanilla suburban development — zero thought as to creating a cohesive streetscape. No wonder the residents object to the end of their street potentially contributing to this nothingness. Vandalia St. is a typical 4-lane arterial with a center turn lane and generic buildings on each side. Both the residential areas and Vandalia St. lack sidewalks so nobody sees the point in walking down the block to one of the nearby establishments.

The developer will likely prevail in court regardless of which side the city takes.


Mississippi River Bridge: Last Option is the Best Option

A proposed new bridge across the Mississippi River is back in the news of late. Missouri and Illinois still cannot agree on how to pay for the bridge “now estimated to cost between $999 million and $1.76 billion.” (P-D 2/1/07). Call me a synic but if they are estimating such a range I’m going to go with the high end or better when the final bill is paid. In no way do I believe that it would come in under a billion. I’m going to go with $1.5 billion.

So we have several choices: the big highway bridge, a more cost-effective “coupler” built near the existing King Bridge and lastly we have a proposal to fix some of the existing interchanges, a new I-64 interchange in Illinois and redo parts of Illinois Route 3. The feds have already earmarked $239 million for the bridge project — money that presumably can go for this work. Interestingly, these little third option strategies are all items that need to be done anyway. I say stop wasting time on the bridge debate and get to work on fixing the areas that need fixing. Get the bottleneck areas resolved. Is this too short term and not the long-range planning I prefer we do? Perhaps.

I still question the “need” for a new bridge, especially one costing over a billion dollars to construct. Keep in mind that the old McKinley bridge will be reopening for traffic (including cyclists) in September connecting just north of downtown to Illinois Route 3 to Granite City and Madison County. This combined with the King Bridge and Eads Bridge into downtown can handle considerable local traffic. The new bridge as proposed will, in my view, simply shift sprawl from the Western edge of our region (St. Charles County) to the far Eastern edge of the region. Proponents say this will help re-center the City of St. Louis within the region. I suppose that is true, but so would curbing the sprawl through various Smart Growth measures employed by other regions. A billion or so would do wonders in the region for curbing sprawl and building more localized transit.

Frankly, if someone wants to buy a big house way out in Illinois and doesn’t like the traffic on I-64 they have several choices. One, move closer so the drive is not so long. They can get off the highway and take local streets that will get them across the river on other bridges besides the Poplar Street Bridge (aka the PSB). They can utilize the excellent MetroLink light rail system that serves a good portion of St. Clair County in Illinois or bus service to the city from Madison County Transit. Perhaps Illinois with its substantial transportation funding could help out Madison County by helping fund their proposed MetroLink extension.

This bridge, if finally built will not grow our region. It will simply shift suburban sprawl around a bit — a zero sum gain for the region. And simply put, the more lanes you build the more volume will increase putting you right back where you started at some point. As we’ve seen in the past, the city will remain a pass-through. Let’s fix the areas that need fixing and then work on moving people & jobs closer to the center — both in Illinois and Missouri.


Circus Day Foundation Offers Lessons in Life & Juggling

Yesterday I attended the annual bike swap meet organized by the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. As always, the event grew ever larger — attracting more vendors and more customers. This year we had entertainment, the St. Louis Arches — a youth circus group that takes classes at the City Museum through the Circus Day Foundation. The foundation’s mission statement:

Circus Day Foundation teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through teaching and performance of circus skills, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.

They answer the question you may be asking, why circus?

Circus is a performing art that children and adults appreciate and value. Circus Day Foundation uses circus arts to teach and inspire children of all ages and backgrounds. Our performances entertain and thrill audiences of all generations with the ageless delight of the circus.

Even more so than other sport, cultural or artistic activities, circus is not associated with any particular race or gender. Many arts or sports activities have either a gender or race bias. Circus combines both art and sports aspects, involving kids who might not normally consider doing anything artistic and kids who might not generally attempt anything physical. Circus has an across-the-board appeal that other sports and artistic fields do not have.

The life skills we learn, as children, are the tools we take with us into adulthood. If we teach children when they are young to overlook differences and focus on similarities, to focus on working together to fix something rather than abdicating responsibility and blaming instead, those skills could result in a more peaceful future. When you are trying to do a human pyramid, you need to know the technique and the terminology so that you and your partner are speaking the same language physically and verbally. You learn fairly quickly, that to succeed in performing the pyramid, you cannot blame each other if something goes wrong but you must figure out what you can do together to make it work. Whoever you are and wherever you are from, there is some circus skill that you can accomplish because circus is an art made up of a variety of skills.

Circus teaches life’s lessons. Participation requires cooperation, individual and group responsibility and control over mind, body and emotions. Children learn these skills through circus arts and apply them to everyday life. Circus teaches the art of life.

You could see it in the kid’s faces, they were having a really good time all the while working hard and really focusing on each other. We were treated to a wonderful show complete with gymnastics, balancing acts and juggling. Since it was a bike show, they concluded their 40-minute or so performance with bike tricks. Enjoy the show:


For more information, including how to become a sponsor, visit circusday.org