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Friday, December 11, 2009

St. Louis Infrastructure and Development Review

I've been lax on updating lately, despite the fact that St. Louis has seen some big news as of late. So why not crunch it all into one convenient post?

First, Highway 40's open again. Interstate 64. Whatever.

I'm flabbergasted by the largely positive response to the re-opening of the highway. It provided nothing for St. Louis but more highway lanes, fewer homes in Richmond Heights, a look fresh out of 1960s Brasilia, and better-designed interchanges. For hundreds of millions? Pardon my dripping sarcasm, but grrrreeeaaaaat. Call me out for not actually having driven the highway yet (not been home since it opened), but the pictures seem to me to only highlight the project's total lack of imagination.

Where's the lush median?

What about High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes? These are pretty standard on many roadways. If you don't have at least one other person in the car with you, you cannot use the lane with a symbol like the one below:

HOV Lanes encourage (read: enforce) carpooling and therefore fewer smog-emitting cars on the road.

Better yet, as I've argued on this blog, why not simply end I-64/40 at McCausland/Clayton Road. At this point, there could either be an urban boulevard with a 35-40 MPH speed limit roadway at all. The region survived a year or so without this segment of the interstate; it's hard to argue that it was vital to the survival of the region at this point. This would have been a great opportunity to open up Forest Park to the neighborhoods to the south and show that pedestrian traffic flow matters as much as automobiles. Oh well; another generation or two of an obtrusive interstate in a city that has far too many.

I know it's too late to complain (yet I persist), but I just am nauseated by the positive response to this large and wasteful infrastructure project when the region has so many greater needs for transportation infrastructure.

Next, the Archgrounds International Design Competition! Hearkening to the original international competition that netted Eero Saarinen's landmark Gateway Arch proposal, the National Park Service will hold another competition with an eye to reinvigorating the present grounds and forging connections with surrounding neighborhoods, including the East St. Louis riverfront. In keeping with my teeth-gnashing over Highway 40, I am absolutely thrilled that the project could see the removal of the depressed lanes of I-70 and even the elevated lanes at Laclede's Landing. This portion of the highway is set to become obsolete as I-70 is re-routed into Illinois over the new Mississippi River Bridge. Proposals must include removing this divisive eyesore from the equation if the Arch is ever to be psychologically connected to Laclede's Landing and downtown. I am beyond excited at these prospects!

Ballpark Village. I agree with blogger Rick Bonasch's (St. Louis Rising) sentiments on recent discussions of the Ballpark Village development. There's no "village" component being discussed at all! Not including residential in this high-profile parcel would be an enormous mistake, especially considering Blue Urban witnessed a nearly instant sell-out of the Ballpark Lofts development in a down economy.

The Bottle District. HRI, Inc. of New Orleans is set to redevelop the old McGuire Moving and Storage building into lofts geared toward artists. Excellent! It's great to see the Bottle District development start off on a positive, organic note. There are no contrived 700-foot skyscraper pipe dreams--just a sensible proposal to restore a historic building and inject new life into it.

Grand Center. Not to be outdone by downtown, Grand Center may soon be getting its own artist loft development in the old Metropolitan Building. Right now, this is coming to me in the form of an unsubstantiated claim on the Urban St. Louis forums, but hopefully we'll hear some sort of confirmation soon. This building was scheduled to become a hotel of the Hyatt brand, but those plans have fallen through.

As for hotels, Grand Center may soon have two. Again, Urban St. Louis forum rumormongers (a term of affection, mind you) stated that St. Louis University President Lawrence Biondi was opposed to a hotel proposal on Forest Park Avenue just south of campus, this one of the Holiday Inn chain. That one may still be going forward. But SLU is not sitting idly by. SLU is partnering with the Lawrence Group to transform the former Interiors Unlimited Building adjacent to Triumph Restaurant and the Moto Museum into a luxury hotel.

Could St. Louis be emerging from the recession?


Herbie Markwort said...

From an I-64 Live discussion:

Dan Galvin and Linda Wilson: MoDOT has considered carpool lanes and has examined the research about them. Successful High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are always an additional lane and not the restriping of an existing lane, have their own ramp system at major interchanges so cars don't have to merge out of the HOV lane to exit to another interstate and there are laws in place to enforce the HOV lanes. Except for five of the 10 miles of the I-64 project, MoDOT does not have any plans to add more lanes on our interstates including I-70, I-44, I-55 or I-270. We also don't have any legislation in the state of Missouri to enforce HOV lanes if we could ever build them. At this point, we are not planning to do HOV lanes. In other cities where existing lanes were restriping for HOV, they have been very unsuccessful and the striping was taken back.

Matt M. said...

Thanks for that. ^

Keep in mind though that this highway rebuild afforded the opportunity to reserve a lane for special HOV use.

As I said, my preference would be to see the region experiment with alternative forms of transportation, including dismantling certain interstates altogether.

Doug Duckworth said...

The fanfare over the highway shows how provincial we are as a Region.

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