Search This Blog (A.K.A. "I Dote On...")

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"The New I-64"--A.K.A. Highway 40--a Freeway without a Future?

Is Highway Forty a member of the not-so-elite Freeways without Futures?

Not yet--but, on the dawn of the closure of Kingshighway to I-170, it should be.

Those who know St. Louis know that I-170--the Innerbelt--is a rough demarcation between urban St. Louis and suburban St. Louis (some say Lindbergh Boulevard instead).

Now that the western half of the former Daniel Boone Expressway has been completed (Spoede to I-170), we should really give a last minute look into the eastern half, which is simply not the same.

The western half of the New I-64 Project was a suburban, commuter interstate and nothing else.

Check out an aerial of the road network:

View Larger Map

It's clearly not an urban area.

Now check out the eastern half that is slated for closure in days:

View Larger Map

Notice anything?

Did the 1,300 acre regional park and neighborhood asset known as Forest Park enter your mind? How about the generally urban street grid that surrounds the interstate?

So, let's get this straight. We're spending millions of bucks to repave a highway, put up some sound walls, and knock down a couple bridges? Why not up the ante and urbanize I-64 from I-170 to Kingshighway, if not all the way into downtown? Yes, I am borrowing here from Steve Patterson's visionary post calling for the removal of St. Louis's superfluous interstates, to be replaced by something along the lines of Forest Park Avenues (ex: the stretch from Kingshighway to Market St., not the Parkway portion, which is a true expressway). It just makes sense. Congress renewed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA, pronounced ice-tea). ISTEA allows funding to transform historic road corridors into pedestrian-friendly, landscaped, functional corridors. It allows for bike lanes, street lamps, sidewalks...everything.

The public has well gotten used to life without 40; the addiction to whizzing on and off this central artery is past the withdrawal stage. Why reintroduce the habit of overly convenient and anti-pedestrian highways in urban areas? With the money earmarked for rebuilding, we should construct something that honors the urban locales that have been affected by the endless buzz of traffic for decades.

I can think of one argument against the urban boulevard transformation for I-64 (other than that it'll slow some commutes). It doesn't truly solve the root problem of I-64/Highway 40.

THE FREAKING HIGHWAY SLICED THROUGH FOREST PARK!!! The Dogtown neighborhoods--Kings Oak, Cheltenham, Clayton-Tamm, Hi-Pointe--have been cut off from one of the region's greatest assets for so long. Due to the presence of the interstate, pedestrian entry to the park from the south is funneled into a couple roads, when the whole south side of the park should be so attractive as to be a prime address in St. Louis. The reality is that, if you live, say, here:

View Larger Map have an unnecessarly long trek to the Tamm overpass, the nearest park entrance. Or you could walk across the Oakland overpass, past the nightmarish I-64 Clayton Avenue exit/Skinker intersection, and thence into the park. Not. Pedestrian. Friendly.

Autocentricism has destroyed a vital connection between park and neighborhoods. The result is a "suburbanized" park in the process. Many people who live less than a mile south of the park will nevertheless drive to get to it.

I envision a buried Interstate 64. Forest Park could then be restored to its original footprint, which includes the section presently south of the interstate that some might assume was simply federal right-of-way from the start and not part of the park itself. The south side of Forest Park, then, could enjoy the brisk, urbane aesthetic of the Skinker and Lindell sides. Unfortunately, this might mean the need to remove the Hampton exit altogether, with Zoo and Jewel Box and Muny goers subjected to the Skinker or Kingshighway exits. The buried portion would extend for at least the length of Forest Park, if not farther.

Again, why spend public monies on recreating something that may not have a long term future as an asset to the city? I-64 may be a freeway without a future; burying it would reduce its obstruction of the jewel of the St. Louis park system from the deserving residents just south of the future construction zone.

In the meantime, scroll down City Park Avenue in New Orleans to observe an interstate-free, vital connection between a 1,300 acre park and an urban neighborhood (yes--they're just about the same size!). [It's New Orleans' City Park.]

View Larger Map


Fashion STL Style!

Fashion STL Style!
St. Louis Gives You the Shirt Off of Its Own Back!

Next American City

Next American City
Your Go-To Source for Urban Affairs

Join the StreetsBlog Network!

Join the StreetsBlog Network!
Your Source for Livable Streets

Trust in Rust!

Trust in Rust!
News from the Rustbelt

Dotage St. Louis -- Blogging the St. Louis Built Environment Since 2008

Topics: Historic Preservation, Politics and Government, Development, Architecture, Urban Planning, Urban Design, Local Business, Crime and Safety, Neighborhoods, and Anything Else Relating to Making St. Louis a Better City!