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Readers Supportive of MoDOT Tolling I-70 Between St. Louis & Kansas City

November 30, 2011 Economy, Transportation 17 Comments

In the poll last week readers supported having drivers pay tolls on I-70:

Q: Should MoDOT toll I-70?

  1. Yes, tolls are a great way to make only users pay for the road 38 [36.19%]
  2. Yes, but Missouri should also increase the state gas tax 31 [29.52%]
  3. No, once tolls start they will never end 13 [12.38%]
  4. Perhaps, need more information 10 [9.52%]
  5. Other: 8 [7.62%]
  6. No, will lead to more toll roads in MO 5 [4.76%]
  7. Unsure/No Opinion 0 [0%]

As is often the case the other answers also provide additional viewpoints:

  1. MoDot should consider more than just I-70 for tolls
  2. yes if the toll pays for removing I-70 from Downtown
  3. increase gas tax first
  4. No, we should increase the gas tax instead
  5. no, new leadership needed
  6. I like the free road, but toll roads are probably better for the environment.
  7. We need a comprehensive transportation plan that pays for transit too.
  8. Add as a poll answer
  9. OK if no new lanes

What I failed to distinguish between is who manages the tolls — MoDOT vs a private corporation.

– Steve Patterson


Patronize Local Stores on Black Friday if You’re Shopping

November 25, 2011 Economy, Featured, Parking 6 Comments

The great thing about  not having any money is I have no need to subject myself to the crowds of people trying to get a cheap flat-screen television at midnight.

ABOVE: Parking lot at The Galleria Mall on Sunday August 1, 2010

But part of me is tempted to take transit to places the The Galleria Mall just to see the vast areas of surface parking on the only day of the year that much parked is needed.

If I were shopping it wouldn’t be at a generic mall. I’d be at a locally owned store so my money would stay in the community. What are your thoughts on Black Friday & Cyber Monday?

-Steve Patterson


Readers Don’t Think the 2011 World Series Win Will Help Get Ballpark Village Built Sooner

November 9, 2011 Downtown, Economy, Planning & Design, Politics/Policy, Real Estate Comments Off on Readers Don’t Think the 2011 World Series Win Will Help Get Ballpark Village Built Sooner
ABOVE: Future site of "Ballpark Village" in July 2009

Before I get to the poll results from last week I want to ask local TV stations to stop saying they are broadcasting “live from Ballpark Village.” BPV doesn’t exist yet! The vacant site where BPV is proposed to be built certainly exists — but at this point no village exists. Cut it out, I got tired yelling at my television recently. Okay, not that I have that off my chest I can share the poll results from last  week.

  1. No 78 [56.12%]
  2. Hopefully 38 [27.34%]
  3. Maybe 12 [8.63%]
  4. Yes 7 [5.04%]
  5. Unsure/No Opinion 2 [1.44%]
  6. Other: 2 [1.44%]

The two other answers were:

  1. Yes, but at a much reduced scale
  2. It’s a nice spot for a park/gathering place. Do we need more buildings?

We need buildings because they define urban space in a downtown, we have an excess of open space.

– Steve Patterson


Readers Support Cost-Saving Measures for USPS

November 2, 2011 Economy, Politics/Policy 2 Comments
ABOVE: USPS truck on Locust

In the poll last week Readers showed support for changes at the U.S. Postal Service:

  1. Reduce delivery to five (5) days per week per the USPS plan 44 [43.56%]
  2. Privatize the postal service 17 [16.83%]
  3. Other: 16 [15.84%]
  4. Reduce delivery to four (4) days per week or less 14 [13.86%]
  5. Keep delivery six (6) days a week & raise first class cost up to $1:  9 [8.91%]
  6. Unsure/no opinion 1 [0.99%]

Not surprising since you are online. These days government checks (pay, Social Security, Disability, etc) are direct deposited for most who receive them. But there are still many who eagerly await mail delivery six days a week.Privatization sounds good but as one comment on the original post pointed out, those in rural areas would get the short end of the stick. The USPS can deliver to the 40 household in my condo building much easier than 40 households in Franklin County or edge cities like Wentzville.

Here are the “other” answers provided by readers:

  1. Look into how top heavy the post office is and the financial abuse by the mgmt
  2. end the unusual and crippling pension funding levels that only apply to USPS
  3. Keep six days and raise bulk rates. I get 5-10 pieces of bulk a day.
  4. Charge more for junk mailings, reduce to 5 days. Don’t close rural offices
  5. Close it down. Take the money spent prossising mailand give every a PC
  6. stop performance bonuses to mgmt of all levels. stop paying unit to move every
  7. Pass HR 1351.
  8. go back to the way the PO was run prior to 2006 postal reform, get rid of congre
  9. Have OPM give the USPS the money they owe them
  10. Require the union to allow firings/layoffs
  11. get rid of 1 supervisor in each office
  12. Stop making the Postal Service prepay into the retirement fund
  13. does it really lose money? I though that’s mostly budget games.
  14. Reduce service and raise price to breakeven
  15. Reduce 5 day/wk but no deliver on Wed, mid week
  16. Close every single post office that doesn’t make a profit; see what people think

I’m well on my way to not needing the USPS at all. As more of us conduct out business online the USPS will continue to struggle. That realization explains a recent USPS ad called “hacked:”


Click here for tips on how to stop USPS junk mail.

– Steve Patterson


Guest Post: Old Man of Armour: A Last Look at The Armour Plant

September 8, 2011 Economy, Featured, Metro East 22 Comments

by Chris Andoe

I’ve spent a great deal of time documenting the collection of ruins that make up much of the East St. Louis area. It’s fascinating to see what happens to large masonry structures after fifty years of abandonment. The first couple of times the decay seems static but after a few seasons your eye begins to measure the steady progression.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, January 2010 by Chris Andoe

The site urban explorers find the most intriguing is the Armour Meat Packing Plant, which was the first of East St. Louis‘ big three plants to shutter, closing in 1959. Visiting this behemoth is a religious experience for many with its smokestacks, towering ornate machinery – some circa 1902 – incredible views, and endless areas to discover.

With a few flashlights you can descend into the labyrinth basement complete with deep watery pits, climb multiple levels taking in the glazed brickwork, and one explorer even documented his journey to the top of the smokestack where bricks came loose in his hands and he nearly fell to his death.

ABOVE: Satellite image of the abandoned Armour plant and the planned route of I-70, click to view in Google Maps.

The mystique around this place is accentuated because it’s long been difficult to find. You head north through East St. Louis, past the prostitutes strolling Route 3, make a right at nowhere, park along the isolated potholed road. Once on the property you trek the long convoluted pathways through thick vegetation before you reach it.

Nature has taken back the site, inside and out. Trees are firmly rooted on the roof, vines climb through windows, and a giant white owl waits in the rafters.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, June 2009 by Chris Andoe

In recent years the natural decay has been accelerated by the metal scrappers who have removed much of the flooring and disassembled some of the ornate equipment. On an intellectual level I’ve wondered why the thefts bother me so much. After all the building has been steadily falling for decades and is well past the point of being converted into a new use. The condition is terminal, and after half a century development is encroaching with the new I-70 slated to skirt the site. This hidden, mysterious treasure- long a beacon for explorers and thieves will be laid bare as a dangerously accessible, intolerable eyesore on newly visible, valuable property. Its days are numbered but the dismantling bothered me nonetheless.

After being away for seven months I was eager to see the ruins. I visited the neighboring Hunter Plant, slated for demolition, several sites in Downtown East St. Louis, and I saved the best for last. Sure enough the scrappers had stripped away even more of the personality but in light of recent severe weather I was surprised that the structure hadn’t fared too poorly.

As I was looking around my eyes locked with an old black man in an official looking uniform.

“Who told you you could be in here?” he demanded. I’ve always had ready-made replies in the event this would happen but in that moment I felt like one of the twelve year old kids in the movie Stand By Me. I simply replied “Nobody. I was just taking photos”. He instructed me to “get my crew and get out of here”.

I realized he thought I was a scrapper. He followed us closely as we walked the long overgrown road to the main street. I shared that I knew about the scrappers and also thought it was a shame. He then opened up. “They’re who I was hoping to catch!” he began. “They’re tearing this place apart”.

I had found a kindred spirit. This man loved this crumbling monstrosity even more that I did. After inquiring further I was astonished to learn that he had been one of the employees of Armour during its heyday, and when the plant shuttered he was the lone employee kept on as the caretaker for the site. Since 1959 he’s watched his coworkers leave for the last time, watched as sections of the roof crashed in, walls crumbled, supports failed, and people like myself climbed the building with abandon.

I had so many questions for him and asked if he’d speak with me for this piece. “I can’t really say nothin’, I’ve gotten in trouble in the past” he said. He did point to a few areas and told us how many people worked in each. He spoke of all the jobs that were there.

The overgrown lot littered with brush, bricks and debris gave way to the blinding white pavement of the brand new road. We were off the property. The old man with gray stubble, one blind eye and a sharp, pressed uniform had done his job.

ABOVE: Armour Packing plant, National City, IL, January 2010 by Chris Andoe

A few years back I had a dream that after a storm I went to check on the plant. As I approached I heard a snap, like a lone firecracker, then watched as the whole structure collapsed in slow motion before me- a spectacular sight- so vivid with the smokestacks splitting and the fire escape landing just feet from my body. That would have been a demise worthy of such a structure. Nestled in quiet vegetation and in the company of someone who loved it.

Just before we got in the car the caretaker pointed to a nearby dirt pile and said “That’s where the new highway’s comin’”.

All of us understood what that meant.

– Chris Andoe

Chris Andoe is a writer and community organizer who has divided his time between St. Louis and San Francisco for the past decade. He earned the moniker “The Emperor of St. Louis” as the crown wearing Master of Ceremonies for the zany Metrolink Prom, where hundreds of transit supporters pack the train for the city’s biggest mobile party. Andoe writes for St. Louis’ Vital Voice.