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A Small Local Boulevard Through Forest Park Grew To Become A Major Interstate

June 30, 2016 Featured, Parks, Transportation 9 Comments

Last week I posted about Forest Park’s 140th anniversary.  Earlier this month my husband and I visited the Science Center, looking out from the walkway over Interstate 64 I was reminded that land was originally part of the park.

6/11/16 2:14pm

In 1958 Kingshighway hadn’t been straightened, but a small road cut through the Southern edge of Forest Park — see aerial. Highways were meant to connect cities to each other, but within cities they divided and consumed valuable land.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "9 comments" on this Article:

  1. JZ71 says:

    And they went through parks because it was “easy”, the government already owned the land and fewer occupied homes would have to be displaced, plus “parkways” were actually once a good thing, in many people’s minds, back in the day. The clarity of 20/20 hindsight proves that we made the wrong choices.

    I agree with half of your conclusions – “Highways were meant to connect cities to each other” – but I’m conflicted on the second half – “within cities they divided and consumed valuable land.” The same can be said of railroads and the impacts of airports – they all bring both positives and negatives, and if Route 66 and the interstates had totally bypassed St. Louis, I’m thinking that St. Louis’ struggles would be even bigger than they are now. The real question is was the pain worth the gain? Both short term and long term?

    On a micro level, having ANY major transportation artery near you is usually a negative (if you’re a resident), but it can also be a big a positive (if you’re a retailer, manufaturer or distributor). The further away you are (as a resident), the more the equation inverts – it’s classic NIMBY. We care a lot about speeders on our own block, but most of us are guilty of speeding (and other bad behaviors) on other people’s blocks, miles away from where we live. And to pick just one example – would north city be better or worse off if I-70 were completely removed between the city limits and St. Louis Avenue? Would south city be better off if I-55 were removed between the city limits and A-B? If there were no Poplar Street Bridge, and all the traffic still used just the Eads Bridge? Would we be a community of thriving, historic neighborhoods? Or would even more people and businesses have fled the city for the greener pastures and easier access of the suburbs? And points beyond? And would we be even more Detroit-like? It’s a question we can discuss, ad infinitum, but we will never answer . . .

    • St. Louis always picks easy over best, at the time they likely didn’t consider/understand the long-term consequences.

      • Fozzie says:

        I-64 provides excellent access to world-class medical facilities that benefit the region, but that doesn’t fit your narrative.

        • My only narrative is the original roads have continued to consume more and more land — well beyond what was originally anticipated .Good thing we have BJC there to treat those in auto accidents.

  2. KevinB says:

    People talk about Forest Park, singing its praises as “bigger than NYC’s Central Park!” Well, that’s true, but Central Park doesn’t have the disadvantage of having a massive highway abutting it…


  3. Mark-AL says:

    You state that the highways “divide and CONSUME valuable land.” Don’t you really mean that the land has been repurposed? Between 100K to 150K vehicles use I-64 (HWY 40) daily. ….more than daily use the entire area of Forest Park. In one sense, then, the land is being put to better use now (by STL residents AND visitors) than it would be if I-64 had been built outside the limits of the original park. And so it could be said that the residents of STL are being better served by the land that 1-64 now occupies. All SLisans should commend the original 40/64 planning commission for their insight and astute planning.

    • Todd Spangler says:

      The urbanist view is that freeways within cities tend to lead to the depopulation of the city, with associated blight and the resultant growth of suburban sprawl, which is bad. The bypasses could have provided a means for the interstates with their long-haul traffic to wrap around cities without disturbing their internals very much, but as freeways within cities were also constructed, the bypasses wound up mostly aiding the growth of sprawl. It can be argued that the end result was fine, as it is what most Americans wanted, anyway, but a few of us would still argue that it did not represent particularly enlightened public policy.

      • JZ71 says:

        I’d argue that when the interstate system was first being designed, most cities WANTED the freeways to penetrate their cores, not bypass them, in much the same way that cities that said “no” to railroads withered while their neighbors, who embraced them, thrived. And, as someone who was born in the ’50’s I remember how much of a difference freeways made, both urban and rural, in shortening travel times. But the big thing that is being left out of the equation, about suburban growth, is the consistent, incremental growth in the overall US population, combined with the rural-to-urban migration (that continues today). The country’s population DOUBLED between 1900 and 1950, and doubled again between 1950 and 2007. All these people need(ed) somewhere to live, and most people could/can not afford to, nor want(ed) to, live in multi-story urban highrises, thus the never-ending demand for suburban options. And if people are willing to pay for their own vehicles (instead of paying the same money, through taxes, to support a robust, functional, transit system), then freeways (and toll roads and abundant parking options) are a very logical and rational “solution” to many (most?) people’s needs and desires. Do freeways have their downsides and negative impacts? Absolutely! But given the alternatives, the Hobson’s choice, for most people, freeways, even within cities, make a whole lot of sense!

        1900 – 76M
        1916 – 102M
        1932 – 125M
        1948 – 147M
        1964 – 192M
        1980 – 227M
        1996 – 265M
        2012 – 316M

        https://www.google.com/fusiontables/DataSource?dsrcid=225439#rows:id=1 . .


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