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Floodwaters Draws Spectators, Park Service Vehicle Blocks Accessible Route

The Mississippi River is rising but so are the number of riverfront spectators. Saturday night I was among hundreds that found a spot along the Arch steps to take in the vastness of the river.

Some folks were playing in the water which doesn’t seem wise given what is likely in the water.

When I left I headed toward the makeshift ADA route over I-70 at Chestnut.

There in my path is a National Park Service truck. We saw no workers near the truck, just a truck parked between my wheelchair and the pathetic excuse for an accessible way over the highway. My friend pushed her grandson’s stroller through the grass and over a rut. I tested the off road ability of the wheelchair and went a bit wider to avoid the rut in the dirt.

You know the place might be a bit more inviting if they didn’t park three ton vehicles in the direct path of visitors! I can just see us spending hundreds of millions on a “lid” over the highway only to have the NPS screw it all up by parking vehicles as they did the other night. Brilliant!


Don’t Park in Front of Curb Ramps

Earlier in the month I did a post about an illegally parked car block the ADA ramp/curb cut which blocked my flow in the wheelchair and required me to backtrack to get to the other side of 10th street.  I’ve been through the same intersection (10th & St Charles) numerous times since then and it has been clear.  The other day, however, a driver decided to make a space where there wasn’t one — blocking the very same ramp.

This time I was ready — I had programmed the police non-emergency number into my phone.  Thankfully I left my number with the dispatcher as the officer called a short time later and didn’t understand the problem.  After directing the officer to look at the blocked ramp he got it.

I came back through the same intersection two hours later and the car was still blocking the ramp but it was ticketed (the rear tire is centered on the ramp).  A friend suggested it should have been towed.  At first I thought that a bit extreme but upon more thought I agree, had the car been blocking auto traffic they would have towed it very quickly.   Towing the car would have been a better lesson for the owner of this car.


Wheelchair Access and the Arch Grounds

Last week I showed the image below, the starting point of Market Street and for many a primary walking route to access the Arch grounds.  Well too bad for those of us in wheelchairs, walking with a cane or just pushing a child stroller.

A block South of Market, at Walnut & Memorial, is the same situation.

The place to cross Memorial is at Chestnut —if you know about it and if you are brave enough to do so.  Above I am about to cross Memorial heading West after leaving the Arch grounds. We can see a pedestrian stepping up the unusually high curb.  To the right is the makeshift accessible route.

As you can see we are given a few feet of pavement and zero protection from motorists.  Traffic on Chestnut is one-way Eastbound — toward me in the above image.  I’m not feeling overly accommodated at this point.

The other way in/out of the grounds is at Washington Ave — a good distance out of the way depending on your point of origin or your destination.  Meanwhile civic leaders and politicians are arguing over who has design control of Memorial and discussing how it will literally take an act of congress to do a lid over the highway.

What needs to happen is quite simple — accept the highway as a given.  Realize we have acres of unused plazas already nearby.  Nobody wants to sit out on a lid over the highway next to blank walls of the buildings facing the arch.  Create safe & attractive ADA-compliant  crossings at Chestnut, Market & Walnut.  Populate each intersection with a street vendor selling water, hot dogs, pretzels and such.  Get it done sooner rather than later.  In the meantime get some of those MODot vertical sticks that help visually separate a traffic lane from what they are counting as an accessible route.


Have Wheelchair, Will Travel

Before my stroke I would walk the 10 or so blocks from my place at 16th & Locust over to City Grocers at 10th & Olive.  While I am able to walk again thanks to a couple of months of physical therapy I can really only handle short distances at a time.  As an example walking to a  seat at the Chase theater after getting dropped off at the Lindell entrance was pushing my limit.

This is why I’m so happy I’ve got an electric wheelchair — it gives me mobility that I thought I wouldn’t have.

Over this past weekend a friend and I  walked across the Eads Bridge.  OK, she walked and I wheelchaired.  What a great bridge — connecting two parts of our region for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and those using light rail.  The bridge make it easy for me to wheelchair all the way to Illinois!

On the Illinois side is a ramp from the top down to the MetroLink level.  A couple of short elevator rides and we we back on the platform for a train to take us back to Missouri.

What I found is my wheelchair tourism is that I can get pretty much anywhere.  Sometimes the direct route is not an option —  such as the above to the Arch Grounds.

A block South at Walnut the situation is just as bad — the crosswalk lines lead directly into a high curb.  I think if I try back by Washington Ave I can get to the grounds but encountering obstacles such as the above can prove frustrating.  At these times the last thing you want to do is travel several blocks out of the way with the hope of stumbling upon an accessible route.

For years now the “lid” project has been discussed.  The latest problem is the who has design review over the area. I say forget the lid and all the useless plaza concepts and just fix the sidewalks to make them accessible sooner rather than later.

Interestingly one of the benefits of being limited by the wheelchair is it forces me to explore my local environment, such as the ‘Meeting of the Waters’ sculpture & fountain by Carl Miles in Aloe Plaza across Market from Union Station.

Union Station is remarkably accessible given that the renovation happened prior to the passage of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).  Perhaps the building code of the day mandated a certain level of accessibility?

Given this freedom to explore (on dry days at least) I’m considering my other options.  I’m so close to MetroLink that I could get to places such as the loop or Clayton easily.  I could use a few items from Trader Joe’s and via Metrolink can get close easily & quickly.  The problem is the shopping center is one of those that assumes everyone drives a private automobile.  Although a sidewalk runs along Eager it doesn’t connect to the shops (at least to my recollection).  Ditto for crossing Brentwood and making it to Whole Foods.

The Central West End is certainly an option too.  As soon as I figure out how to get on & off the bus with a wheelchair that will give me many more options.  I think I need to get to Loughborough Commons in the chair so I can evaluate their after the fact accessible route.

While you might see people in wheelchairs and feel sorry for us don’t.  To me the wheelchair represents freedom and mobility.  Without the chair I’d be stuck at home.


Lumiere Link is Nice, Route to Tunnel Needs Attention

Earlier in the week a new tunnel under I-70 connecting Baer Plaza (East of the Edward Jones Dome) and Lumiere Place casino in Laclede’s Landing opened to the public. St Louis Development Co. head Rodney Crim suggested the city wants convention goers, “when not in session and looking for things to do” to take the tunnel to the casino and Laclede’s Landing. Never mind conventioneers taking a stroll down Washington Ave or other streets downtown where retailers are struggling to have enough customers. See Crim on KSDK here.

So much was made about this great new privately funded $8 million dollar connection I just had to see for myself.

I started by heading East on Washington Ave, passing by the main entrance to the convention center, aka America’s Center. Of course the taxi stand on the sidewalk gets more space than us pedestrians. I can tell you that being in a wheelchair heading straight on toward a taxi that is moving toward me is not a comforting feeling. Oh the driver saw me as he repeatedly tapped his horn as he drove off. Behind the cabs was a St Louis police car that was so far to the right I had to go to the left to get around it. Welcome to St Louis.

When I got to 7th I turned left as I figured conventioneers might use the courtyard/plaza doors as their starting point for their walk to the casino. Above is looking back South from the plaza entry at 7th & Convention Plaza. As a side note Convention Plaza used to be Delmar but it was renamed when it ran in front of the original convention center. Later in the early 1990s when the center was expanded to the current configuration the street go cut off by the building. So now we have this short section of Convention Plaza on both the East & West sides of the center. It should have reverted back to the name Delmar.

Leaving the circle drive area at 7th & Convention Plaza we see surface parking lot and the back of the Drury Inn.

Heading East toward Baer Plaza & Lumiere Link we are along the side of the Edward Jones Dome. I’m not sure why street trees were not part of the plan when this was built but thet are sorely needed. The Jersey barriers were likely added after the Oklahoma City bombing or after 9/11.

Almost to Broadway now and we see a nice collection of Jersey barriers, seemingly blocking our path across the street.

Above, I want to cross Broadway which is to my left but I can’t get my wheelchair close enough to the pedestrian signal button (it is the one on the right on the light pole).

Above is the same pole and signal button from another angle. The ramp to cross Broadway is to the left of all the Jersey barriers you see. Current ADA guidelines require signal buttons to be closer to where they are needed.

Finally we make it. I can’t believe that Rodney Crim wants visitors to make that walk — it has to be among the worst in the city. I’d hope conventioneers would never see this side of the dome — instead making their way down Washington Ave to see sidewalk dining and increasingly active sidewalks.

So we are now at the entry to Lumiere Link. We are at Baer Plaza. Who?

Robert J. Baer was the first chairman of the St Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority. Baer was also the former head of Bi-State Development and he took over the position again at Metro after Larry Salci had a very public crash & burn. From the plaque:

“Preservation of land for this park reflects Mr Baer’s recognition for ‘green space’ as an attractive front yard for the Stadium/Convention Center.”

With the trees now mature this has the potential for a decent public space. Sadly it has no natural users as the area is pretty desolate. Although now we have people coming and going to the casino and maybe a few to Laclede’s Landing beyond the casino. So how attractive is this front yard? Above you can see the weeds popping up between the seams in the concrete, not a good start.

All around the edges is debris from the trees.

There is even part of a dumpster lid. The whole plaza looks and feels rather abandoned. This is not St Louis putting it’s best foot forward. You’d think someone from the Visitor Commission or whomever has responsibility for this space might had tidied up a bit before the opening of the new tunnel.

Visitors to the tunnel have three choices for the decent — stairs, an escalator or an elevator. At the other end of the tunnel you end up right smack in the middle of the complex. You are not on the casino floor of course because you must show ID and such to enter the gaming area. Still you can see the games and certainly the restaurants.

The interior was more posh than I expected. Pity they had to go and ruin it with all the gaming machines. I also have to wonder how of the $8 million for the tunnel was in video screens. Despite the richness of the whole place I couldn’t wait to get out. I may use the link again so that I can check out the exterior of the casino & hotel as it looms over what little remains of Laclede’s Landing.

Overall I think the link is a good thing — the more connections across I-70 the better. If only the route to get to the tunnel wasn’t so pathetic.