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Two Community Plans Intersect at Former Ferguson QuikTrip Site

Before Michael Brown was shot & killed last August, community planning had been completed to improve parts of Ferguson & neighboring municipalities. In 2011 Great Rivers Greenway District completed the Maline Greenway Concept Plan, in June 2014 East-West Gateway Council of Governments completed the West Florissant Avenue Great Streets Master Plan — both included extensive community participation along their linear boundaries.

The boundaries of each plan, coincidentally, intersect at the burnt out QuikTrip (9420 W. Florissant Ave). The 1.14 acre site, on W. Florissant Ave, is bordered by Maline Creek on the South. Next week I’ll post about the Urban League’s intentions for this site and how they ignored two published plans with extensive community involvement. Today more detail on both plans.

West Florissant Avenue Great Streets Master Plan:

The Vision for West Florissant Avenue comes from community and stakeholder input received through multi-faceted outreach efforts. These have included public workshops and virtual walking tours, interviews with community leaders, input from the Community Committee and Technical Advisory Committee, an Agency workshop, and an online survey and mapping tool. The Vision Statement has distilled this community and stakeholder input, with the most significant community values expressed as how the corridor should look, feel, and contribute to the community’s future. 

Maline Greenway Concept Plan:

The Maline Greenway Concept plan presents the findings of a yearlong planning process that involved inventory, analysis and recommendations. Input from residents within communities along
the greenway helped shape the plan. The report includes background information on the District, summary of existing conditions, review of public input, description of the Maline Greenway concept, implementation overview and a summary of recommendations that include not only the trail alignment opportunities but also recommendations that address the social, economic and environmental quality of life for the communities. The Concept Plan helps to guide partnership opportunities, provides an analysis of the corridor, identifies community connections and alignment opportunities.

The West side of W. Florissant is very similar to the East. lots and lots of paving
The West side of W. Florissant is very similar to the East. lots and lots of paving. August 2014

From the Existing Conditions chapter of the West Florissant Ave plan, p20:

Ferguson’s zoning was updated as recently as 2011 and includes a downtown form-based code. Ferguson’s guiding comprehensive plan document is the Vision 2015 Plan Update that dates to 1998.

Page 24:

Although sidewalks are provided on both sides of West Florissant Avenue along most of the corridor, the pedestrian realm is generally uninviting and often unsafe. Buildings are spaced too far apart to walk, sidewalks are interrupted by frequent driveways and parking entries, and there are few pedestrian amenities or street trees.

Page 25 talks about transit and possible Bus Rapid Transit (BRT):

West Florissant also carries transit, specifically MetroBus Route 74 (Florissant line), and though the headways are long (30 minutes), Route 74 is one of Metro’s heaviest-used lines, with over 1.1 million boardings in 2013. West Florissant is crossed by MetroBus Route 61 (also in Metro’s top ten heaviest-used routes, with 800,000 boardings) at Chambers Road. The heavy transit use along the corridor results in a correspondingly heavy pedestrian demand. There is a clear opportunity to encourage transit- and pedestrian-oriented development at this intersection of West Florissant and Chambers Road.

While the current roadway configuration works relatively well for those traveling by automobile, and offers a transit option, other modes and users are largely shortchanged. West Florissant Avenue’s auto-dominated character and design, width, and traffic speeds, as well as the lack of any bicycle facilities, make it hostile to and unsafe for cyclists. Conditions for pedestrians are somewhat better, with the presence of sidewalks, but the pedestrian experience in many places along the corridor is unpleasant and unsafe.

With new high-quality transit service given priority along the corridor, and with rush-hour headways of 10 minutes, the opportunity exists to remake West Florissant Avenue into
a transit-first street, with transit-oriented, pedestrian-scale development clustered around some key stations along the corridor. The corridor has a relatively wide right-of-way, which will make allocating space efficiently to serve the multi-modal needs of all its users easier than if the street were narrower.

Chapter 5 Concept Plan, page 86:

New infill development should be guided by new zoning and guidelines that require buildings and entrances to be built up to the sidewalk, forming a consistent street wall. Until redevelopment occurs, individual property owners should be encouraged to beautify the edges of existing parking lots that front the avenue, so that the pedestrian experience is improved.

The study area of West Florissant Ave is long, but you have to start somewhere. From the Executive Summary:

Project construction should start at the south end, where there is high potential for redevelopment projects such as new housing, retail and mixed use projects. Thus investing public funds in this zone first follows a strategy that looks to catalyze private investment as soon as possible. Maline Creek is also planned to be reconstructed, so developers will be attracted to the critical mass of activity which will result in an appealing place for housing to be developed. Putting the South Gateway into construction in the first phase will also help create a rationale for the street design and use of medians and access management, simply because these street treatments are already in place immediately to the south, at Buzz-Westfall Plaza.

Maline Creek was identified as the point where the commercial development stops and residential begins, the former QuikTrip is on the residential side of Maline Creek.

Looking East at Maline Creek from West Florissant, the QT site on the left.
Looking East at Maline Creek from West Florissant, the QT site on the left. August 2014

From the Maline Creek Greenway Concept Plan Executive Summary:

Numerous park and open space areas exist along the proposed Maline Creek corridor which could potentially function as trailheads and Greenway amenities. Creating attractive linkages between parks and open spaces will promote public use and create the opportunity for the greenway to become a regional attraction. (p1.5)

After the trail leaves Ferguson’s Forestwood Park

Continuing east, the trail is planned to be located in open space at the north side of Maline Creek to West Florissant Avenue. From West Florissant Avenue the trail is planned to proceed south across the creek and then go east on the south side of the creek for approximately 2000 feet. A pedestrian bridge is planned in this area to cross the Maline Creek to reach the north side open space and continue east to Lucas and Hunt Road near Westview Middle School (p1.9)

The QuikTrip site could, perhaps, allow the trail to stay on the North side of Maline Creek.

In the interest of transparency and community involvement I think the community should share in setting the vision for the use of 9420 W. Florissant Ave. More next week.

— Steve Patterson


Kingshighway Viaduct and Tower Grove Avenue

In the late 90s I lived in Dutchtown and worked on Union at I-70, three days a week I commuted by bike. I’d vary the route somewhat but it always included Tower Grove Ave.  Many St. Louis area cyclists use Tower Grove Ave as their preferred north-south route but that may change in early 2015. They’re concerned about increased auto traffic during the 18 months while the Kingshighway viaduct is being replaced.

The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct
The crumbling Kingshighway viaduct will soon be history

Here’s the deal:

Starting in early 2015 Kingshighway will close between Shaw and Vandeventer for a year and a half as an aging bridge over railroad tracks is rebuilt. This arterial road carries 45,000 vehicles per day, and traffic on nearby roads is expected to increase as a result. The primary detours will be along Vandeventer, Shaw, and McRee, which will be reconfigured to accommodate more traffic. Still, the concern is that excess traffic will spill over into other streets, particularly during rush hour. To address this, the City aims to increase traffic capacity along Tower Grove Avenue between Magnolia and Shaw (blue segment on map below) during peak hours by prohibiting parking and allowing two lanes of traffic. (Safe Tower Grove Ave)

The following announcement was retrieved from the Streets Dept page on 11/2/2014:

NOTE REGARDING TOWER GROVE: A road diet and buffered bike lanes on Tower Grove Avenue from Magnolia to Shaw are part of Phase III of Bike St. Louis and all partners are committed to executing that plan. When the Kingshighway bridge construction begins in early 2015, the following things will happen:

  1. The East side of Tower Grove Avenue from Magnolia to Shaw will be posted “No Parking” between 7-9 am and the west side will be No Parking between 4-6 pm;towing enforced.
  2. We will paint a bikeable shoulder to be used by bicyclists during these peak times. We will maintain the share the road markings in the outside traffic lanes for use by bikes at non-peak times (when parked cars are present).
  3. In addition alternate bike routes will be signed as a detour just as we do with vehicle traffic. 
  4. Alternate routes for cyclists will include creating a biking and walking friendly renovation of the Thurman Underpass.
  5. Traffic levels will be monitored and evaluated regularly for changes – This could include additional parking restrictions or reducing parking restrictions and adding bike facilities.

We will install the full Phase III Bike St. Louis improvements along Tower Grove Ave as quickly as possible after monitoring how the closure is affecting all forms of traffic. We look forward to adding this and many more signage and markings to make City of St. Louis streets better for bicycles!

The response from Matthew Wyczalkowski of Safe Tower Grove Ave:

While the City’s proposal is inexpensive and represents minimal change for drivers, in our discussion it was widely seen as confusing and unsafe. As an example, when there are just a few parked cars (right after rush hour, for instance) many cyclists will be guided to the painted “bikeable shoulder”. Drivers will expect cyclists to ride there as well. When coming upon a parked car, though, the rider will have to quickly enter the travel lane. This is intimidating and dangerous for cyclists as well as for drivers, who will be surprised to have a bicycle suddenly appear in front of them just as the lane narrows. Alternatively, cyclists may choose to ride where the sharrows (shared lane markings) are, regardless of parked cars. This is the safer and more predictable option, but leaves the rider vulnerable to aggressive drivers who may even try to pass on the right.

The main task of bike lanes is to provide consistent guidance for all users of the road, so that cyclists know where to best position themselves, and drivers know where to expect bicycles. The City proposal provides no such service. It is confusing and open to interpretation, and is thus more dangerous than no bike lanes at all.

Tower Grove Ave looking North toward Shaw
Tower Grove Ave looking North toward Shaw

The cyclists considered three alternatives to the city’s plan:

  1. No change, keep it as is during construction
  2. Buffered bike lanes, do the planned buffered bike lanes before construction starts
  3. Parking protected lanes

They unanimously supported the buffered bike lanes for Tower Grove Ave. Implementing this next phase of the Bike St. Louis plan now is a smart way to mitigate the issues we’ll face when traffic on Kingshighway is detoured to other roads. By making Tower Grove Ave less desirable for cyclists we risk them driving during the 18 month construction period, making traffic worse.

We need a coherent & connected bike network to allow those who wish to commute by bike to do so. Our public right-of-ways have generous width, enough for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists to share. Read & sign their petition here.

— Steve Patterson


Update: Chippewa Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Lane

Last month when I posted Chippewa Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Lane the project wasn’t finished, I was holding out judgement until complete. The project now appears to be complete, but I’ve only experienced it as a passenger in a passing vehicle.

Looking east you see the westbound  bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
March 2014: Looking east you see the westbound bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
Now the bike lane is separated from the pedestrian area
April 2, 2014: Now the bike lane is separated from the pedestrian area

I’ll take MetroBus there this Spring so I can check it out end to end using my wheelchair, paying close attention to the transitions from the sidewalks at each end. On the reverse trip we noticed lots of water covering the sidewalk on the south side of the street.

— Steve Patterson


Chippewa Road Diet, Bike Lanes, Pedestrian Lane

Late last year Chippewa got a road diet using paint, not concrete. Four traffic lanes were reduced to two with a center turn lane, and a bike lane was added in each direction.  Under the railroad bridge between Gravois & Meramec was the part that confused me, with a wide lane to the right of the new bike lane. The other day I was finally in a place where I could get some photos.

Looking east you see the westbound  bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
Looking east you see the westbound bike lane to the right of the orange cones.
Looking west toward Morgan Ford
Looking west toward Meramec

Because of the railroad tracks pedestrians haven’t been able to  walk in an east-west direction along Chippewa. Up top the tracks are a barrier and the underpass was designed decades ago only for vehicles.  Online I found Chippewa Bike Lanes: A Review:

The pedestrian lane under the viaduct seems like a creative and appropriate solution to the problem of pedestrian connectivity along aging infrastructure. It is important that the pedestrian lane be separated from automobile traffic, and the traffic cones are obviously a temporary fix. We look forward to seeing the permanent configuration, and will update this post as the project evolves. 

Hopefully the traffic cones are just temporary, but replaced with what? The excellent images on the post Chippewa Bike Lanes: A Review show how lanes shift, with the risk of motorists ending up driving in the bike/pedestrian lanes.

— Steve Patterson.


Sidewalks In Chicago

Last weekend my fiancé and I went to Chicago for a 3-day weekend. I’ve been numerous times since my stroke 6+ years ago, including last August, but each of those visits was by car with me as passenger or driver. This trip we took Amtrak so I could use my wheelchair since our primary reason for going was to see the Chicago Auto Show. I know here in St. Louis my chair can easily get stuck in just a tiny amount of snow so I was nervous about going to Chicago where they had lots more snow. As soon as we exited Chicago’s Union Station I realized how much Chicago values all modes of travel: auto, bike, bus, foot, chair.

Sidewalks, roads, ADA ramps connecting sidewalks and crosswalks were all cleared.
Sidewalks, roads, ADA ramps connecting sidewalks and crosswalks were all cleared. This photo taken at Harrison & Wabash, click for map.
A protected bike lane on S. Dearborn was cleared of snow.
A protected bike lane on S. Dearborn was cleared of snow.
All the bus stops/shelters had been cleared as well allowing us the use various CTA bus lines
All the bus stops/shelters had been cleared as well allowing us the use various CTA bus lines

You might be thinking “Sure, in the Loop. What about in the neighborhoods?” Friends picked us up for dinner Saturday night, driving us for Lebanese at Semiramis, located miles away from downtown at 4639 N Kedzie Ave.  The sidewalks, ramps & crosswalks were also cleared there.

— Steve Patterson