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Grand Bridge/Viaduct Not Looking So Good After Only Eight Years

September 16, 2020 Featured, Planning & Design, SLU Comments Off on Grand Bridge/Viaduct Not Looking So Good After Only Eight Years

The ribbon for the $20-$30 million Grand bridge/viaduct was cut on August 25, 2012. It looked great that day. Now, eight years later it is not looking so fresh.

August 25, 2012 @ 10:30am
The many planters along both sides that day had lots of plants.
The plants were a wide variety.

On Monday (9/14/2020) I crossed both sides, end to end.

Approaching from the south one light is broken off. The next is just a pole — no top.
Weeds new growing in the cracks, the planters are empty.
The drains are all clogged with trash, etc.
At ome point the entire structure has settled, this means both sidewalks now have a vertical point that exceeds ADA guidelines.
The settlement line is visible in the median as well. The curb here will continue to deteriorate unless repaired.

Ribbon cuttings are appealing to politicians, especially those running for additional terms. Being able to tout millions of dollars in new investment is great for a resume.

Routine maintenance, on the other hand,  isn’t glamorous. The media doesn’t send out a reporter/photographer. So we spend millions building new stuff then fail to maintain it. I think Saint Louis University had originally planted the planters, but they’ve had a change of leadership since.

You may not notice driving across, but this bridge is now an embarrassment. It’s no longer ADA-compliant.

— Steve Patterson

 

St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

September 10, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, Planning & Design, St. Louis County, Walkability Comments Off on St. Louis County Moved Mandatory Beg Button After I Complained About Not Being Able To Reach It

Buttons used to activate pedestrian signals are derisively called “beg buttons.”

These buttons have long been decried and criticized by advocates for walking, anyway. The buttons’ purpose is less to keep people safe than to reinforce the primacy of cars on the street by forcing people who want to cross a street to “beg” for a walk signal. (California Streetsblog)

In the City of St. Louis many buttons don’t do anything, a walk signal is displayed even if you don’t press it. In June I encountered an intersection in St. Louis County where it was mandatory to press a button to get a walk signal across one street, but not the perpendicular street from the same corner.

On June 3rd I was at the southeast corner of Hanley & Dale Ave, wanting to cross Hanley — but using a wheelchair I couldn’t get to the button.
Looking west across Hanley.

Crossing Dale Ave doesn’t require pressing the beg button, it activates the walk signal in conjunction with the traffic lights. However, if you don’t press the button you’ll never get a walk signal to cross Hanley. Even when Dale traffic gets a green light you’ve got a don’t walk unless you pressed the beg button. Without a walk signal westbound Dale motorists turning left onto southbound Hanley wouldn’t expect to see any pedestrians crossing the street. On June 3rd I had to cross, in my power wheelchair, even though I didn’t have a walk signal.

Thankfully left-turning motorists yielded to me.  I later shared my frustration on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

A friend & reader suggested I call St. Louis County. Though this is in the municipality of Richmond Heights, Hanley is maintained by St. Louis County — a fact she knew. I’m not a fan of making voice calls but I did find a compliant form on their Department of Transportation website. A day or 2 later I got a phone call from a county engineer. I emailed him the photos I took rather than call him back. A few weeks later I got an email saying it had been moved.

Yesterday I went out to the nearby  Trader Joe’s  and another store so I went to this intersection to see the change. I’d suggested the button(s) not be used, just switch to a walk signal timed with the light. So I figured the beg button would still be mandatory, I just wanted to see if I could reach it.

A pole was added to hold the two beg buttons — one mandatory and the other completely useless.
Now looking west across Hanley.

No telling how many years this was like this. It amazes me how often I see situations where someone wasn’t thinking about disabled pedestrians. There are likely many more examples out there.

— Steve Patterson

 

Broadway and 4th Street Need To Become Two-Way Again

August 24, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Planning & Design, Transportation Comments Off on Broadway and 4th Street Need To Become Two-Way Again

Last week, in response to a death as a result of late night racing downtown, St. Louis put up temporary barriers in various places, including blocking all traffic across the Eads Bridge.

In addition to the bridge, the city also closed a section of Washington Avenue from Tucker Boulevard to 14th Street with barricades this week. Barriers also narrow traffic in stretches of 4th Street, Broadway and Market Street.
 
“These are temporary changes,” Krewson said Friday. “This isn’t something that we expect to be there forever.”

Krewson said downtown streets are built to hold a much larger volume of traffic than the city sees in an average day, and with fewer people working downtown because of COVID-19, the streets are even less crowded. (Post-Dispatch)

The last paragraph, quoted above, is an admission our streets are too wide. Previously when anyone argued the 4th Street/Broadway couplet (one-way in opposite directions) should be returned to two-way traffic the claim was always they needed to remain one-way due to traffic volume.

Southbound cars on Broadway at the Cole Street light. Three very wide lanes.
When the light turns green Broadway widens to five total lanes. The two outside lanes are no-parking, except for rare times when tickets are being sold at the Dome.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic the volume on 4th/Broadway couldn’t justify the one-way couplet. It’s past time for the decades-long experiment on our streets to end. The sole purpose of originally converting these streets to one-way decades ago was to quickly move cars into downtown offices in the morning, and then vacate them in the afternoon — just before the sidewalks were rolled up each night. Part of the engineer’s disastrous effort also included banning on-street parking — that slows down the flow of vehicles. This is exactly the opposite of how you build a user-friendly downtown.

Now, approaching Convention Plaza (Delmar), the vehicles that raced from the light form a single-file line.

Looking back North from Convention Plaza (Delmar)

Walk Broadway from Cole Street to I-64 and see how it feels being next to one-way traffic for over a mile. You’ll see in places the street has 5 very wide lanes that encourage high speeds. Even with the barricades at points, drivers coming off I-44 onto southbound Broadway at Cole street they reach high speeds to get into single file formation at Convention Plaza (aka Delmar).

The prior week a vehicle knocked over a bollard on the Southwest corner of Broadway & Washington Ave.
And then crashed through this temporary wall.

Changing 4th/Broadway back to two-way traffic is only part of the needed solution. Traffic signals must be timed so that a person taking off from a red light doesn’t encounter another red light just a block or two down the street. Our signal timing often encourages people to speed to make it through the next two or three lights. Lane width also matters — the wider the lanes the faster the traffic.

This isn’t the St. Louis of 1950, we need to reverse decisions made by people born in the late 19th century.

— Steve Patterson

 

Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

August 6, 2020 Accessibility, Featured, North City, Walkability Comments Off on Checking Out New Pedestrian Bridge Over I-70 Connecting Old North St. Louis and Near North Riverfront Neighborhoods

In December 2018 MoDOT temporarily closed I-70 to remove an old pedestrian bridge at North Market Street. A similar pedestrian bridge was removed from over I-44 at Marconi Ave, and at other locations.  Yesterday I checked out the new ADA-compliant replacement over I-70.

The East side of the new pedestrian bridge, along Northbound 10th Street, has a switchback ramp.

Before getting into the new bridge we should look at what it replaced. Interstate 70 was built decades before the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, so the old pedestrian bridge had stairs on each side.

This 2010 photo is from the West side along 11th Street. The stairs on each end went  down in opposite directions.

Stairs make such a bridge impossible for those of us who use wheelchairs, but also difficult for people who walk using a cane or walker. They’re also a challenge to a parent pushing a stroller, cyclists, etc.

In April 2019 I snapped this image of construction on the new bridge as I was driving by. Yes, I drive too!

Yesterday’s weather was so nice I decided to check out the completed bridge. It was 1.2 miles just getting there from our apartment near 7th & Cass Ave. I did encounter missing curb ramps in a few places — often missing sidewalks. But I made it.

The access point on the East side of I-70 is at North Market Street. There is no painted crosswalk, no signs warning drivers to yield to pedestrians. No curb bulbs to narrow the crossing distance. Nothing. 10th Street traffic is one-way northbound — and it is fast.
Once safely across 10th Street you see trash has accumulated. The city has equipment to clean streets but tight spots like this don’t get cleaned.
From the base looking up the ramp to the landing. I use a power chair which had no problem with the incline. Being ADA-compliant means the maximum level should be acceptable to person using a manual wheelchair. Every so often there are level spots to give someone s rest.
From the landing, looking back down.
Looking South from the landing
From the very top looking back at the landing
Looking East at North Market Street from the top.
Looking West across the level top of the bridge.
Looking North at Northbound I-70.
Looking South at Northbound I-70. The switchback ramp can be seen on the left.
Looking South at Southbound I-70. The straight ramp on the West side (11th Street) can be seen on the right.
From the West end of the bridge you get an excellent view of Jackson Place Park. This was the center of three circles in the original plan of the separate Village of North St. Louis.
Looking South down the straight ramp on the West side (11th Street).
Looking back up from the bottom.
At the bottom you look across 11th Street at Monroe Street. A new curb ramp was built across the street. Like the other side, 11th is one-way and there is no crosswalk markings, signs, etc.
Back up toward Jackson Place Park you can get an overview of the West side.

It is nothing fancy, but it gets the job done. Highways divided many neighborhoods, many previously connected streets permanently severed. I have no idea how much this cost, but it was worth every penny. The highway is still an at-grade divider at this point, but the bridge makes it possible for everyone to safely to cross over it.

Once the current pandemic is over I’ll take the bus to other new pedestrian highway bridges so I can compare.  Yesterday I explored in Old North, got takeout from Crown Candy, and returned home 3.5 hours after leaving. Roundtrip was about 3 miles.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

July 9, 2020 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Planning & Design Comments Off on New Park/Garden Under Construction Next To Eads Bridge

When Great Rivers Greenway announced six years ago they were going to build a park on the north side of the Eads Bridge many of us scratched our heads — there’s already huge park (90+ acres) on the south side of Eads Bridge — the Gateway Arch National Park. Why build a small park next to a big park?

It was announced a park was planned for the north side of the Eads Bridge, on the other side of the trucks parked in the alley. March 2014
Another March 2014 view, taken from Lucas Ave & Commercial alley.

Here is their initial press release:

Feb. 27, 2014 (St. Louis) – With the transformation of the Riverfront and Gateway Arch grounds underway, the Great Rivers Greenway District is pleased to announce the purchase of a historic property that will provide a safer and more accessible connection between Laclede’s Landing and the revitalized Riverfront.

The lot is situated directly north of the Eads Bridge between First and Second streets on Laclede’s Landing. It is the site of the former Switzer Licorice Building, which was demolished in 2007.

“We are very pleased to have acquired this property,” says Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway District. “Not only will it provide a universally accessible connection to the Arch grounds, it has the potential to create larger connections across the region and spur future development.”

The District aims to transform the property into a park or other compatible development offering food, restrooms, or other services to enhance the visitor experience while providing a seamless transition between the revitalized Gateway Arch grounds and Laclede’s Landing.

“The site offers endless possibilities for connection,” says Trautman. “It is steps away from the Eads Bridge Metrolink station, four blocks south of the North Riverfront Trail, and around the corner from the new trails being built on the Arch Grounds and along the Riverfront. It is fitting that the ‘front door’ of this property is a soaring arch beneath the historic Eads Bridge.”

The District purchased the property from St. John’s Bank for $350,000. The property’s appraised value was $390,000. 

I didn’t catch this six years ago, but the site isn’t actually “between First and Second streets” — it’s between First and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd (originally Warf).

What we often get in press releases about planned projects is statements meant to reduce possible objections to a decision. Who’d have a problem with safer and more accessible, right? Keep reading.

The 1st Street opening in the approach, the park site id on the other side of both the approach and 1st St.
The Commercial Alley opening, currently closed while workers on the park use the covered/shaded space.

The Missouri approach to the 1874 Eads Bridge is brick & stone, but has five openings to allow people and vehicles to easily reach the other side:  Warf, First, Second, at two alleys in between the streets. They knew in the 19th century that closing off parts of the street grid wouldn’t be a good idea so they make sure every street & alley could continue unimpeded.

Stairs from 1st Street up to the MetroLink platform
From 2nd Street you can use the elector or stairs.

For anyone arriving at Laclede’s Landing via MetroLink light rail can exit to either First or Second streets — assuming they’re physically able to do so as only the Second Street exit has an elevator. Due to elevation changes, the Second Street exit also has significantly fewer steps than the First Street exit.

Surface parking across 1st Street from new park. The buildings in the background face 2nd Street.

Second Street is the primary street in Laclede’s Landing, it has the most restaurants and such. First Street is ok a block further North, but right at the bridge it’s desolate — mostly surface parking and a old flood-prone parking structure down the hill.

View of new park site from 1st Street MetroLink station opening

The west side of this new park is bounded by First Street, therefore adjacent to the First Street entry/exit for MetroLink. As a wheelchair user I can’t use the First Street exit. This park may prove popular, perhaps especially with cyclists and those looking for restrooms.

The land between Commercial alley and Lenore K. Sullivan Blvd is still privately owned, but Gateway Greening hopes this is a phase 2.

I personally would’ve liked to have seen new buildings, rather than more open space. That’s a big part of the problem with Laclede’s Landing — too few buildings, far too much open space. Sure, this will be green open space instead of asphalt open space. Hopefully the parking to the North & West can get replaced with new buildings — this would give this park nice walls.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is currently under construction

The new park is not named after the building that occupied the site for decades, Switzer licorice.  No, follow the money out to Ladue.

The Katherine Ward Burg Garden is the first step in this long-term plan to redevelop the St. Louis Riverfront north of the Eads Bridge and Gateway Arch. Situated adjacent to the Eads Bridge, the half-acre plaza will be a welcoming spot once people exit the MetroLink at the Laclede’s Landing stop.  It is bordered by North 1st street on the east, Lucas Avenue on the northern edge, the Mississippi Greenway (Commercial Alley) on the east and the Eads Bridge to the south.

Thanks to a generous bequest from the estate of  Katherine Ward Burg, the garden has been designed to create a flexible and welcoming open space which attracts visitors north from the Arch grounds to explore Laclede’s Landing or to the Arch grounds from the Landing. It incorporates an iconic trellis, stepped terraces and curving seatwalls offering a comfortable spot for respite, a meeting place to start an adventure and a site that can be adapted for special events and programs. The gently sloped landscape allows for accessible ramp access from First Street down to Commercial Street, a way for all people to move down toward the river, eventually connecting to the Mississippi Greenway.

Construction is underway and expected to be complete in Spring 2021. (Great Rivers Greenway)

If you were looking for a post with uncritical approval with artists renderings you’ve come to the wrong blog. Hopefully my skepticism will prove unfounded, the garden will become a huge success.

We’ll find out how it looks and functions next year and if it’s a success after a few more years.

— Steve Patterson

 

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