Arch Grounds Public Scoping Comments Support Study of I-70 to Boulevard Conversion

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City to River

The incremental process that is the Arch grounds revitalization efforts continues to inch forward, largely out of the limelight. The latest public step was a required scoping period for the National Park Service (NPS) environmental assessment (EA). It represented one of the few opportunities, and the first in many months, for the public to weigh in on the process.

The NPS received 123 pieces of correspondence and parsed them into comments. In total, 119 comments supported the further study of transforming current I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to the new Mississippi River Bridge into an urban boulevard. When the public has had a chance to participate, the message has been clear. That message is not that the I-70 conversion should be completed by October 2015, the City+Arch+River project deadline, or that the ongoing project should grind to a halt. The public is simply asking for the option to receive full consideration, to be studied. As asked in the story below, will anyone listen?

The story below first appeared on the City to River blog:

The National Park Service (NPS) has aggregated and released public comments received during the public scoping period for the environmental assessment (EA). The comment period ended in August. City to River submitted an official comment.

The two questions asked were as follows:

Question 1: Do the purpose, need, and objectives reflect what you think the NPS needs to accomplish with this project? If not, what else do you think needs to be accomplished?

Question 2: What concerns do you have about the potential impacts of the project to revitalize the park? How do you think these concerns could be addressed?

As the NPS explains, this “public scoping” is intended to bring to its attention any issues that it may have missed and may need to address in the actual Assessment.

The NPS release in its entirety:

The National Park Service (NPS) has analyzed the comments received during public scoping for the environmental assessment (EA) for alternatives to revitalize Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and would now like to share them with you.

During the scoping period, 123 pieces of correspondence were received from the public, other agencies, organizations, and tribes. A correspondence is the entire document received from a commenter. It can be in the form of a letter, email, or an entry made in the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) system. This system was then used to identify individual comments, which are a portion of the text within a correspondence that addresses a single subject. Each of these comments was assigned a code in the PEPC system, which allows the NPS to group comments based on a comment subject.

The document available on this site provides a list of all comments received, organized by the code they were assigned. All personally identifying information has been removed. Organization names have only been retained for comments made by those who indicated in PEPC they were officially affiliated with the organization.

We will be considering these comments as we develop alternatives for City Arch River 2015 project components on NPS property, and as we evaluate the potential impacts of those alternatives. This analysis will be made available for public input when the EA is released, which we anticipate to be in the winter/spring of 2012.

City to River read through each comment, looking specifically for views expressed concerning the conversion of I-70 into an urban boulevard. We found 119 comments supporting the study of Interstate conversion. To reiterate: 119 comments from 123 total pieces of correspondence explicitly supported further study of the City to River proposal.

Clearly, those who are engaged in the future of St. Louis and have been following the City+Arch+River process have spoken loudly and clearly. Individuals continue to support the City to River concept because it inherently makes sense. It is the best way to connect our city, Arch and river.

Ignoring the City to River concept and passively neglecting the opportunity to simply study an idea that is happening in a dozen other cities across the country, should not be accepted. St. Louis expects and deserves more. Will anyone listen?

Comments supporting the study of I-70 are below. The full NPS comment document can be found here.

Read the 119 comments:

1. The proposed plan that is currently under consideration would add more infrastructure between the City and the River. One of the biggest problems with the Arch Grounds is that it is disconnected from its surroundings. It is an isolated island separated by bridges and the elevated/depressed parts of I-70.

2. Think BIG!! Forget the deadline of 2015…I think it would make Eero and Dan more proud if there were mounds of dirt and debris from the torn down highway 70 during the 50th anniversary celebration then a newly finished, but highly flawed design.

3. If highway removal and a new boulevard become more feasible upon completion of the New Mississippi River bridge and rerouting of I-70 out of the depressed lanes away from the Arch, then the 2015 deadline should be extended to allow for sufficient time to carry out a more optimal alternative, including highway removal.

4. In all seriousness, how much worse could access to the River, Lacledes Landing, and Arch Grounds get? And if we inconvenience auto travel on the elevated and depressed lanes of I-70 the reality is it will mostly be commercial truck and through-travel traffic- They will quickly learn to circumnavigate during the process.

5. More uses are needed inside the park to draw more individuals, better connectivity to other parts of downtown, closing the interstate (I-70) with a more pedestrian oriented boulevard, memorial drive should remain open to traffic, and more activities such as bike trails are essential in improving the experience of visiting downtown and the Arch Grounds.

6. I wish we could bring I-70 up to grade and name it Arch drive or something and have signalized intersections at every single block. Think Kingshighway and Forest park. I dont understand why we are hell bent on building this lid…

7. I truly feel that a “lid” over I-70 is not a good enough solution to the dilemma that separates downtown St. Louis. I think a complete removal of the interstate and returning it to a Boulevard would offer downtown much more connection to the river up and down the downtown area.

8. Keeping the mistake that is I-70 through downtown will NOT fix the connectivity problem. With the opening of the new Mississippi River bridge and re-routing of I-70 in Illinois, the depressed (depressing) lanes that slice through the heart of our city must go! Please consider implementing City to River’s concept of a signature boulevard to truly connect the Arch grounds to downtown.

9. Keeping I-70 downtown is a mistake. Replace it with a boulevard. Please do not give us an expensive band-aid fix to the problem (the lid). We want TRUE connectivity and a basis for TRUE redevelopment downtown, not a temporary solution.

10. One thing that was left out that needs to be included is THE REMOVAL OF INTERSTATE 70 BETWEEN THE NEW I-70 BRIDGE AND INTERSTATE 64. RETURN MEMORIAL DRIVE TO A BOULEVARD.If you can’t do this. Then you lose my support entirely.

11. I think you need to have a look at CitytoRiver’s plan for a landscaped Blvd instead of the hideous, environmental and pedestrian DISASTER that is the I-70 depressed lanes. You want to make this an environmentally friendly project then remove the polluting disgusting, and unwelcoming freeway from the new I-70 Bridge to I-64 at Poplar Street. The Arch grounds won’t be “revitalized” as you put it, until that disgusting freeway is GONE! At least consider it, or make a suggestion to the powers that be to get this monstrosity out of MY City. SERIOUSLY CONSIDER REMOVING THE FREEWAY PLEASE!

12. I strongly believe that I-70 must be removed to really complete the design goals of reuniting the city-arch-river. This will also open up for development several of the properties on the shoreline which have previously been undesirable due to their location adjacent to the noisy, hot, dirty highway.

13. Creation of a “Lid” over I-70 will not sufficiently reconnect downtown and the Archgrounds. I-70 should be removed. With the new Mississippi River Bridge under construction, the connection of I-70 to the Poplar Street Bridge by highway will no longer be necessary. Not only do the depressed lanes significantly separate downtown from the Archgrounds but the elevation that occurs to the east of the landing present the same issue.

14. The opportunty to remove the I-70 highway that physically and mentally separates the park from the city must happen. All 5 finalist teams supported the idea but it now appears to have disappeared from the plan with no explanation.

15. Please make sure the boulevard concept or something similar (www.citytoriver.org) is in the final plan, or allowed to be built in the near future (if the deadline is the issue).

16. The stretch of I-70 that currently exists will be redundant and unnecessary once the new I-70 bridge is completed. Please don’t add another obstacle between the City and its River and the Arch. Leave open the opportunity for elevated/depressed lanes along I-70 to eventually be removed and replaced with the Boulevard. If studied, it can be shown that building the Boulevard will save taxpayer funds by decreasing the costs of maintaining infrastructure.

17. The interstate is a major concern. Major interstate traffic will be rerouted away from downtown with the opening of the new Mississippi river bridge. Aren’t we already spending the money to relocate I-70?? The depressed lanes are not a vital connector once this bridge is completed.

18. I believe the connections to surroundings are too weak in this plan. St. Louisans are used to this industrial area being inaccessible and not walkable. The only way to change that is to radically change the park-adjacent land. Turn 70 into a boulevard with world class lighting and landscaping. Find developers to focus on areas north and south of the arch more than on the east side.

19. PLEASE at least study removing HWY 70 between the new bridge and the PSB. There is no need for it you can make the same change on the East side of the river. REMOVE IT!

20. In addition, the existing plans will make for a worse pedestrian experience for visitors once they arrive. The removal of I-70 and its replacement with an at-grade boulevard must be studied.

21. Removing one pedestrian crossing does nothing to encourage people to explore the city and remain downtown – where, one much cross many, many streets. Crossing streets is NOT what deters visitors – the crushing maze of I-70 infrastructure is. The removal of I-70 and its replacement with an at-grade boulevard must be studied.

22. The re-routing of I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to the new Mississippi River Bridge makes possible an at-grade boulevard between the two. The boulevard should be studied as an alternative to promote connectivity, protect and enhance the cultural landscape of the city and Arch grounds, enhance the visitor experience and encourage extended visitation. We believe that this is the best way to accomplish what the NPS set out to accomplish with this project.

23. The elevated and depressed lanes of I-70 need to be replaced with an at grade boulevard.

24. You can’t revitalize the park unless people are there. People won’t be there until you reconnect the city with an at grade boulevard.

25. The goal should be to remove all the highway infrastructure and reconnect the city to it’s greatest asset(s) on the river front. Any plan to add even more highway infrastructure to the downtown area completely opposes the goals of the larger community and would be detrimental for decades.

26. I echo City to River’s comments here: http://citytoriver.org/blog/?p=574

27. Implicate (sic. implement) City to River’s plan.

28. Please, please consider replacing I-70 adjacent to the Arch grounds with an at-grade boulevard in the revitalization plan.

29. A study of the feasibility of alternative traffic solutions of for the area around the Arch grounds, including replacing the depressed lanes of I-70 with an at-grade boulevard should be completed to finalizing plans.

30. Get rid of the highway lanes ans put in a regular street.

31. I support the ideas put forward by the group City to River (citytoriver.org). Several of the design firms that submitting proposals were in support of the removal of the redundant section of I-70, including the winning firm, Michael Van Valkenberg and Associates. Please do not let an arbitrary deadline limit the success of the Arch grounds plan.

32. The main problem with the arch grounds are that Interstate 70 cuts them off from Downtown. Removing the stretch of I-70 that runs through downtown St. Louis (soon to be obsolete due to the new Mississippi River Bridge) is the best way to connect the national park to the city.

33. The revitalization of the park should improve accessibility, and encourage arch visitors to explore downtown. Again, the physical barrier created by I-70 needs to be removed before the park and city will be experienced together.

34. The planned expansion of highway infrastructure is completely backwards from what is really needed by this city. The shear amount of real estate value increase from removing I-70 or connecting the Arch to the city in some other way would vastly outweigh the costs.

35. The service should look into removing the depressed lanes of interstate 70 since the new Mississippi River bridge will carry the interstate north of downtown. There is no reason to keep the connection in downtown St. Louis blocking pedestrian access and street grid connections to the park.

36. I think simply removing the barrier to downtown (Interstate 70 & Memorial Drive) would have a greater impact.

37. Highways in all shapes and forms, especially I-70, stand as a barrier to all modes of other transit: pedestrians, cyclists, horse & carriage tour guides, etc. This barrier though does not prevent people from crossing but makes the total environment that much more unsafe. This especially applies to tourists and families who bring small children to see the largest man-made monument in the world. Even with the idea of a lid, the elevated and depressed sections of I-70 will remain as a barrier to all people living and visiting the area. The only course of action is the total removal of I-70 downtown with the replacement of an at-grade boulevard.

38. Removing Memorial Drive while retaining the highway that severs the Arch grounds from downtown St. Louis is a huge mistake. Capping the highway for a few blocks is a “band-aid,” and an expensive one at that.

39. The park will never be truly revitalized until the highway is removed. Retaining the highway flies in the face of the face of all current urban planning tenets. Cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Milwaukee (among many others) have already set a template for us to follow. Removing the highway and creating an at-grade parkway will free up prime land for future development – an exciting prospect for downtown St. Louis. Capping the highway and removing Memorial Drive will prove to be a huge mistake that will haunt STL for decades.

40. By far, the most important aspect of this project is reconnecting the memorial to downtown Saint Louis. In light of this, it is absurd that the most obvious and most effective means of attaining this goal, the removal of the depressed and elevated lanes of I-70 through downtown Saint Louis, has not even been considered. These obsolete lanes create a physical, mental and aesthetic barrier that will not be alleviated by a block-long “lid”.

41. Firstly and most importantly, I want to throw my complete support behind the arguments made by the City To River group at http://citytoriver.org for the removal of the depressed and elevated lanes of I-70. In my opinion, this is the single most important aspect of this project and the one that will be most beneficial for both the park and the city.

42. Without removing the depressed section of I-70 and replacing it with an at grade boulevard, I feel that any and all redevelopment of the Arch grounds will be a moot point. This concrete river is the real reason why traffic does not flow from downtown St. Louis to the Arch!

43. The “Lid” concept only creates more interstate infrastructure on the Arch grounds…which is a negative impact on the overall project. Again, creating a boulevard to replace the depressed interstate would allow for traffic to flow from downtown to the Arch grounds and back. All five teams recommend a boulevard replace the depressed sections of I-70. So why put a band-aid on this big issue? Remove the concrete river that divides the Arch from downtown! It will not only connect the two but open up a plethora of development opportunities throughout downtown.

44. The renovation of the St. Louis Arch grounds is a once in a lifetime (or 2-3 lifetimes) opportunity. I fully support the City to River plan of connecting downtown st. louis to the arch grounds by making memorial drive an at grade boulevard.

45. I believe removal of the I-70 depress section and the rebuilding of Memorial drive could address this issue and make the arch grounds the gateway to the west it was intended to be. This is it… we only have one shot at making this right. The City to River plan would be such a boost to our fading yet enthusiastic city. Fears about traffic and congestion are mistaken, I believe.

46. I am disappointed about the idea of the ‘lid’ covering a portion of I-70. Again, I advocate the removal of the downtown portion of I-70. Since much of this existing infrastructure is dated and in ill-repair, the cost of repairing and maintaining the infrastructure outweighs the benefit of keeping it.

47. Less highway, not more! That area is our best asset, why cut it off? So it will take longer to zip through. If there is some density, there will be some reason to get out, instead of take flight. People are scared of our city, and they should be. Highway infrastructure strangles communities. And yet this is a spectacularly beautiful place.

48. More needs to be done in exploring the idea of removing the elevated and sunken portions of I-70 that separate downtown from the park and Laclede’s Landing. With the new Mississippi River bridge going in north of downtown the need for a separate highway through downtown is unnecessary.

49. By eliminating the elevated and sunken portions of I-70 in favor of an at grade boulevard the pedestrian will be welcome to comfortable cross between downtown, the park, and Laclede’s Landing. This will lead to a more enjoyable experience and a greater willingness to walk further knowing they don’t have to return via the only “safe” crossing. I really hope that more time is put into studying other options for the I-70 debacle that separates our city from this great park and river.

50. The main “need” associated with this project is the elimination of the depressed (and soon to be obsolete) highway lanes separating the Arch grounds from downtown St. Louis. Any other changes made to the park grounds including a small “lid” over the highway simply serve as window dressing in relation to the bigger problem.

51. We need a full reconnection with an at-grade boulevard replacing the depressed and elevated highway lanes. If a “lid” is constructed, it will make it that much harder to eventually eliminate the highway as is obviously needed. Related to the above points, it’s disturbing that the best plan for St. Louis (the one proposed by citytoriver.org) is not being fully embraced, and we are rushing toward completing a far less desirable plan for the Arch grounds in order to meet a silly anniversary date. It’s more important that the right

52. An at-grade boulevard, potentially with a one block depression under a lid, is a feasible alternative to additional infrastructure and provides far superior connections along the entire length of the Arch grounds and to Laclede’s Landing and North Riverfront. i agree that a boulevard in place of the Interstate highway would provide for additional development opportunities, fulfilling not only the desire for improved connections, but very explicitly creating attractors adjacent to the Arch grounds that would promoted extended visitation to the Arch, city and river.

53. No – please consider the signature, at-grade boulevard. Not only would it allow much greater development potential, it would much better connect St. Louis with the riverfront as this project is intended to do!

54. We will be doing all of these enhancements, yet you refuse to at least study the boulevard option! Do it right the first time and you won’t have to do it again. Please, at the very least, study the boulevard option as put forth by City to River.

55. City to River presents a vision to remove I-70 from in front of the JNEM grounds and turn Memorial Dr. into an urban boulevard. City to River’s vision would improve connections between the park and city leaps and bounds better than any option currently under consideration by the NPS and MoDOT. Due to the constraints of the October 2015 deadline imposed by the NPS, every finalist in the design competition included a landscaped lid across I-70. However, every single finalist also said that the vision presented by City to River would significantly improve the connections between the city and the park which, again, is one of the NPS’s primary objectives with this project.

56. The plan, in my opinion, does not satisfy the objective of connectivity. Need to remove the highway barrier. This is the only way to completely revitalize the Arch grounds.

57. The closure of Memorial Drive would decrease, not increase, connectivity. This seems to favor the highway over a possible at-grade boulevard.

58. This project affords the opportunity to remove the soon-to-be decommissioned lanes of Interstate 70. I feel the feasibility of removing the highway section between the Gateway Arch grounds and Downtown St. Louis and replacing them with an at-grade boulevard needs to be studied.

59. Although the “lid” (a band-aid solution to downtown’s connectivity problem) is being studied in detail, there has been no effort whatsoever to study the feasibility of replacing the downtown highway with a boulevard, or a boulevard’s compatibility with the “lid.”

60. There’s an organization called City to River that is trying to get I-70 eliminated downtown since the new river bridge will carry I-70 across it. I feel that this needs to happen for the Archgrounds redesign to be considered a success. The current proposal of putting a lid on I-70 and adding new ramps will not solve the problem.

61. The proposal that makes the most sense and would benefit the city, its residents, and its visitors the most is to replace I-70 and Memorial Drive with an at-grade boulevard as proposed by the organization City-to-River. With the opening of the new I-70 Mississippi River Bridge the freeway connecting the new bridge and the Poplar Street Bridge becomes unnecessary and redundant. Removal of the section of freeway would have a minimal impact on traffic, but a significant impact on the connectivity between the city and the memorial as well as to completely change the pedestrian experience in Downtown St. Louis.

62. I would argue that replacing I-70 and Memorial Drive with an at-grade boulevard thereby enhancing connectivity would do more to draw residents and tourists into the park than any amount of new landscaping and/or additional museum space could hope to accomplish. The complete replacement of I-70 and Memorial Drive with an at-grade boulevard should be included as part of any revitalization of the memorial grounds. There are numerous examples of successful freeway removal projects across the United States which in-turn have lead to economic development of the area the freeway was located and there is little doubt the same would occur in St. Louis.

63. The depressed lanes and elevated portion of I-70 should be removed once the new Mississippi Bridge is open.

64. The NPS will miss the mark entirely, however, if improvements are designed and constructed that prohibit the comprehensive solution to the connectivity problem—the removal of the downtown highway segment and construction of an at-grade boulevard. By failing to study and plan for a long-term solution to the problems created by the elevated and depressed lanes, the NPS (and any other agencies involved in related projects, such as MoDOT) will be missing a huge, once-in-a-generation opportunity.

65. Although the “lid” (a band-aid solution to downtown’s connectivity problem) is being studied in detail, it appears that there has been no effort whatsoever to study the feasibility of replacing the downtown highway with a boulevard, or a boulevard’s compatibility with the lid.

66. The plan to close Memorial Drive in front of the Arch does not lend themselves to the most successful outcome for the city, NPS, and visitors because vital auto connections will be severed, and traffic will be shifted in such a way that will lead to even MORE pedestrian un-friendly situations along the perimeter of the park. Instead, an at-grade boulevard to replace Memorial and I-70 would offer a calmed traffic experience with continued connectivity for automobiles and drastically improved pedestrian safety.

67. There is a singular opportunity to transform the roadways surrounding the site at this time, with the concurrent completion of the new Mississippi River bridge to divert I-70 northward. A bustling boulevard could take its place, giving the entryway to our great monument a drastic upgrade while taking into consideration the needs of cars, people, bikes, etc.

68. Get rid of the big ‘elephant in the room’. The depressed/depressing lanes of I-70 in between the arch grounds and downtown. Please don’t deny us the clear benefits of removing this noisy dangerous barrier. It truly is holding the riverfront back.

69. A shortsighted lid for 2-3 blocks will not keep people flowing in and out of the Arch Grounds. Open access points on its entire length. There is a simpler, more elegant solution. Please don’t ignore the comments of concerned, urban minded and engaged residents. We are the people you want to attract downtown. People all over St Louis have been pleading for a consideration of an at grade boulevard instead of the soon to be duplicated I-70 downtown but so far have been pushed aside by a wave of the hand.

70. If the NPS does not study highway removal, as all of the planning firms which participated in the competition recommended be done, then this is a useless exercise. Downtown cannot be connected to the Arch Grounds without removing the highway. Given it has been shown by Development Strategies that more than a billion in economic development could result from removing the highway, I do not understand why this is not one of the options under consideration in the Environmental Assessment?

71. The NPS must study and implement removal of the depressed section of highway 70 as it is redundant with the upcoming Mississippi River Bridge. This would be a game changer for downtown St. Louis and the Region. Why are other cities studying highway removal, or have already done it, while St. Louis remains stuck in the status quo of failure?

72. The most important objective of this project should be to re-connect the Gateway Arch with the rest of the city. The biggest problem with the Arch is its isolation which is caused by the I-70 highway trench. Replacing the I-70 trench with an at-grade boulevard would be the best way to revitalize the Arch grounds, reintegrate the memorial with the rest of the city, fulfill the vision of the original architects, and maximize the potential of the Arch and Gateway Mall.

73. The “highway removal” option was endorsed by all five competition design teams. The current plan of spending money on additional highway ramps for an obsolete highway makes no economic sense and is contrary to the goals and objectives of the revitalization plan. Restoring the street grid through an at-grade boulevard provides a unique opportunity to address the isolation issue in a cost effective manner and completely transform the park and surrounding area.

74. I am concerned with the proposed plan to add more highway ramps and divisions. I think these concerns can be addressed by removing the small section of I-70, which is made possible by the construction of the new I-70 bridge just north of downtown.

75. With Interstate 70 slated to be re-routed over the New River Bridge now under construction north of Downtown, an opportunity exists to replace the existing aging and crumbling highway barrier with a front door that is fitting to the monument and to the City and which would connect them as they have never been before. This new front door would be an at-grade boulevard with regular controlled intersections and crosswalks which would give the park multiple access points from busy Downtown St. Louis as any urban park should have.

76. The lid plan connects one part, but the ends are left unaddressed, which is especially unfortunate since the north end of the park intersects with the most bustling part of downtown, Wash Ave. The boulevard option, which I’m sure you’ve heard about ad nauseum, would do a much better job of reconnection than the currently proposed overly complex traffic rerouting schemes. Let’s do this once and do it right.

77. The plan, in its current form, may serve to worsen those problems rather than correct them. Specifically, the stretch of I-70 currently separating the city from the park needs to be removed after the completion of the new Mississippi River bridge currently under construction.

78. The removal of I-70 should be fully studied, and a proposal that includes the removal of the highway should be developed for public consideration and comparison to the current plan. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has the potential to be a true asset for the city of St. Louis, the state of Missouri, and the US. However, any proposed renovation should work to improve access to the park by the citizens of and visitors to St. Louis. Please fully study the removal of current I-70 to be completed after the highway is rerouted from the Poplar Street Bridge.

79. It is paramount to study obvious alternatives. Specifically, highway removal would result in a solution that actually does meet the goals of the connectivity prescribed in the competition. As City to River has shown, the boulevard and lid are not only compatible, but also complimentary. To not study such an obvious, economical, and beneficial solution would be a travesty and a complete failure by all parties involved.

80. Having a direct connection to a new entrance is a pitiful substitution to having downtown connected with the river again, and in no way is the sign a of a successful competition. Quite the opposite. The only way to address these concerns is by studying highway removal. All five design teams praised it’s benefits and it remains is the only way to fix the issues the competition was supposed to address. It simply has to be studied.

81. The most disturbing element of the revitalization project will be the effects caused by the removal of Memorial Drive and the preservation and illogical expansion of a redundant and soon to be de-designated highway. The removal of Memorial Drive, an action taken without public input, has never been subjected to public scrutiny or comprehensive study.

82. Removing this stretch of I-70 would incorporate the park into downtown, provide commercial opportunities to further attract visitors, and unite the St. Louis downtown into a cohesive whole. Upon examining the evidence, it is quite obvious that removing I-70 would not hurt the Arch Grounds or downtown at all, and would instead promote their growth. I realize it is a huge project, but it is also unequivocally the right thing to do. We can’t let the scale of a solution scare us off from doing what is best for the Arch and what is best for St. Louis.

83. I am most concerned by the notion of not addressing the pedestrian barrier of I-70 to the Archgrounds. Quite simply, great cities are removing unnecessary interstates across the country. I-70 in front of the Arch will be highly unneeded after I-70 is rerouted north of downtown. It is an embarrassment to have a trench (and it’s still a trench when you put a “lid” on it) in front of one of the world’s most breathtaking monuments, and one of the country’s National Historic Landmarks. It is beyond time to begin planning the removal of the I-70 lanes from in front of the Arch.

84. Build the boulevard! Ease the congestion on Poplar Street Bridge. Highway 70 would be a redundant road once the new MRB is built. Why keep the depressed lanes and build a lid over them? This makes absolutely no sense!! Build the boulevard, add prime real-estate for new downtown high rises, make the arch grounds as pedestrian friendly as possible. Do it!!

85. We need to remove I-70 downtown. That stretch of highway is the single largest obstacle to connecting the city to the Arch grounds. Yeah, its not simple, but neither was building the Arch. Its not exactly in the project scope, but you’re a national park funded by the federal government. You’ve got to have some pull, right?

86. This is a backwards plan in a time when people want to experience city life, whether its for an hour or for the rest of their lives. But once again, we need highway access readily available in a neighborhood where some people don’t even own a car. Highways destroyed our city, and now they are going to destroy a national park.

87. More importantly, the section of I-70 that fronts the park should be removed and replaced with an at-grade Boulevard. The boulevard could present an opportunity to create a connection point between the Arch Grounds and the City where people can walk, dine at outdoor cafes overlooking the grounds, and celebrate the City and the Memorial.

88. If you leave the opportunity to build the Boulevard open, the matter can be studied and planned independently from the Arch Grounds improvements. Please save taxpayer dollars by beautifying the Arch Grounds and do not add any infrastructure that will prevent or inhibit the eventual removal of former I-70.

89. When will this design process address issues tied to the interstate? Other than reviving ‘the lid’ project, I’ve heard nothing. Is one ‘lid’ really supposed to address ALL major concerns from the interstate? When I think of a park, I picture a quiet, serene, pedestrian friendly place. When I think of a highway, I picture a loud, busy, road that is the least pedestrian-friendly place imaginable.

90. Endorse the City to River Plan and take the concerns and vision of those of us who live in St. Louis seriously. Hold more public comment sessions in various neighborhoods north, south, and west.

91. This project will be a failure without the removal of the I70 highway. It is ridiculous to make this type of progress on a project of this scale and miss on the most important aspect. The city and river need to be connected.

92. I would love to be able to walk straight to the new arch grounds without having to cross a highway. It makes no sense to add more exits and more traffic. I think we should consider alternative routes because this might be our only chance for at least another 20 to 30 years.

93. If Memorial Drive were re-imagined as a Boulevard (rather than the highway off-ramp it currently serves as) coupled with well-timed stoplight switches and pedestrian-friendly crosswalks, the Archground’s entire western edge would likely become an active, attractive location and a deserving entryway into the city of St. Louis. At present, the wrong type of traffic is represented, in that the I-70 lanes are fast, dangerous and impersonal. If any lanes should be removed, it is these, and yet they are the ones which — in the current design iteration anyway — are receiving upgrades and expansions.

94. Within the design proposed by the City to River citizens group, a potentially transformative opportunity exists. This design competition has the opportunity to lay the foundation on which private businesses, active organizations and imaginative individuals will build. While I have personal qualms with many of the independent features added or removed from the design, the many issues surrounding Memorial Drive, Washington Avenue and I-70 is the most impactful, and therefore presents the most potential harm.

95. By removing I-70 in its entirety — from south of Poplar Street to the new Mississippi River Bridge at Cass Avenue — Memorial Drive will take its rightful place as one of downtown St. Louis’ main boulevards, rather than serving as a glorified exit ramp. A true grid can be built, connecting all East-West streets to the park, opening up the Grounds to the full breadth of the city and, in turn, the full city to its visitors.

96. I’m not actively involved with the local City to River effort but I’d encourage you to strongly explore their suggestions to reconnect our city to the Arch Grounds and the Mississippi.

97. The re-routing of I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to the new Mississippi River Bridge makes possible an at-grade boulevard between the two. The boulevard should be studied as an alternative to promote connectivity, protect and enhance the cultural landscape of the city and Arch grounds, enhance the visitor experience and encourage extended visitation.

98. An at-grade boulevard, potentially with a one block depression under a lid, is a feasible alternative to additional infrastructure and provides far superior connections along the entire length of the Arch grounds and to Laclede’s Landing and North Riverfront. Therefore, the highway removal alternative endorsed by all five competition finalist design teams, including the winning MVVA team, should (at the very minimum) be studied before “improvements” are made that would preclude this option for decades to come.

99. The MVVA team stated in their winning proposal “the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear”. The design team also kept Memorial Drive open and did not place additional infrastructure between the city and the Arch grounds. There has been no explanation to-date regarding why the proposal now calls for the opposite of what the winning design team chose and the opposite of what dozens of St. Louis community stakeholders have proposed; the removal of the most significant barrier to Arch grounds connectivity.

100. Communities across the nation as diverse as San Francisco, Milwaukee, New Haven, Syracuse and New Orleans are examining and implementing new proposals to remove outdated highway infrastructure and return streets and boulevards to central cities. Many of these real-life case studies have shown that removing highways from urban cores cause property values to increase substantially and significant redevelopment and revitalization of the area to occur. We are not the only ones to identify this opportunity for St. Louis: the Congress for New Urbanism has placed I-70 in downtown St. Louis on their list of “Freeways Without Futures”.

101. There is no reason to believe that St. Louis will have a different experience than other cities that have benefited from highway removal; in fact, a leading real estate consultant has identified $1.2 billion in development potential over the next 20-25 years as a result of replacing the former I-70 segment with an at-grade boulevard. The benefits of transforming downtown St. Louis and its riverfront into a connected, walkable and vibrant community is clear. Failure to fully study this opportunity means that the best solution to address the stated goals of the NPS will be wholly ignored without even a modicum of consideration.

102. A boulevard in place of the Interstate highway would provide for additional development opportunities, fulfilling not only the desire for improved connections, but very explicitly creating attractors adjacent to the Arch grounds that would promoted extended visitation to the Arch, city and river. According to a recent study conducted by Development Strategies, removal of the former Interstate 70 and its replacement with the new Memorial Drive creates up to 500,000 square feet of new developable land.

103. All five finalist design teams in the Framing a Modern Masterpiece competition identified replacing I-70 with an at-grade boulevard as the best solution to meet the challenge set forth by NPS and City Arch River: “Not only would our design not be in the way of a boulevard, but we designed so that it purposely works with a boulevard.”  PWP “We predict fanfare should the elevated highway that cuts off Laclede’s Landing be removed.” – Behnisch “the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear,” – MVVA “Full Circle’s grand loop of transportation facilities could be easily integrated into its [City to River’s] design.” – Weiss-Manfredi “City to River articulates an enormous number of benefits arising from such a scheme.”  SOM-Hargreaves-BIG

104. If nothing else, there should be some kind of study on I-70 and how traffic would be affected if the highway between the Poplar Street Bridge and the new Mississippi River Bridge were removed. I’m certainly glad that the NPS has given the public an opportunity to give their opinions about this. However, the City to River group and its supporters have been trying to get something done for years, and it has barely been addressed by the NPS at all. Why is the NPS so fearful of at least studying the City to River proposal?

105. After the construction of the new I-70 bridge north of downtown, this stretch of I-70 will be obsolete. I do not understand why should NPS’s current project should include drastic changes to I-70 (the lid and the changing of the ramps) when perhaps this portion of highway may not be necessary after 2014. Therefore, if the NPS is concerned with enhancing visitors’ experience at the Arch and limiting the impacts of the surrounding transportation systems, they should realize that keeping the I-70 stretch through downtown is not a sustainable option for the future.

106. I would like to see the interstate removed and more of a less car dominated memorial drive with reduced lanes and more attractive for pedestrians.

107. The replacement of I-70 with an at-grade boulevard would not only change the environment, it would save a ton of money over the long run. Currently, I-70 has to be constantly maintained whether it be by regular cleaning to re-striping, paving and inspections. These items and more amount to a significant cost, especially when the current infrastructure is due for reconstruction. The cost of reconstructing a highway like this would only inflate the costs associated with it. The repetitive cycle of maintenance costs would never end.

108. With the replacement of an at-grade boulevard, less land would also be used allowing MODOT to sell this land to developers, minimizing the cost of the project and allowing other investments to be made. The replacement of an at-grade boulevard would also significantly increase surrounding property values resulting in a stronger financial position for both downtown, the surrounding areas, the city, and state as a whole. The replacement with an at-grade boulevard should not be considered as an expense, but as an investment.

109. I fear that the highway will remain and any other attempts to revitalize the park will fail because of the psychological barrier separating them from the arch grounds.

110. It is my understanding that the boulevard concept is being completely dismissed without being studied for its efficacy. Please reconsider this short-sighted decision, and how it will affect our city in the decades to come.

111. The boulevard concept should not be dismissed as some half-baked idea of a handful of urban activists, unworthy of even a modicum of serious consideration. Consider: The boulevard is supported by many key business and community stakeholders; Every single design finalist for the Arch grounds project voiced support for the boulevard concept, with the winning MVVA team stating that “the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear, and we have purposely created a proposal that is compatible with either solution” (i.e., the lid or the boulevard).

112. It is unfathomable that all of this would simply be disregarded without so much as a preliminary study. City to River understands that there are concerns with its proposal, particularly relating to traffic, that need to be addressed. What the group is asking for is simply that its proposal be seriously studied to see if it is possible, before “improvements” are designed and/or constructed that will make the boulevard impossible. Can that be too much to ask? The wholesale dismissal of this bold idea just seems unacceptable, particularly in the context of a project that has given so much lip service to being transparent and taking the public’s ideas into account, and the entire purpose of which is to reconnect the City of St. Louis to the Arch and the Mississippi River.

113. Please fix the highway issue. We need the arch grounds connected to downtown, not cut-off by an interstate.

114. There is no reason that this highway should not be removed upon completion of the new Mississippi River Bridge. As a region we top the list in the number of highway miles per capita. We need to invest in order to compete; St. Louis will never have this opportunity again. We cannot afford to be so overly risk averse when such windows open for our leadership to act. If the NPS does not study highway removal then clearly the will of the people and experts, who have expressed through the democratic process their support for that alternative, are not of any concern in this process.

115. I highly urge the NPS and MoDOT to fully study the vision presented by City to River. I say this as a concerned native citizen who is unaffiliated with City to River and someone who believes their vision can significantly improve the way residents and visitors perceive their connection with St. Louis’s most recognized landmark and icon.

116. With the new Mississippi River Bridge being built this would be the ideal time to remove both the elevated and depressed lanes of I-70 and consider development of an urban boulevard similar to that of the Embarcadero in San Francisco. This idea would allow for pedestrian, cyclist, and auto access at multiple points increasing interchanges between the park the city tenfold. We have a once in a lifetime chance to get this right, let’s not cut off our city from its water from for another 50 years.

117. The expansion of the I-70 entrance and exit ramps that would accompany the reconfiguring of the intersection at the north-west corner of the park is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE and 100% antithetical to the purpose of this project. – A short-sighted band-aid in the form of a one-block lid over the depressed lanes is just irresponsible given the many long-term advantages (economic and otherwise) associated with their complete removal and replacement with a landscaped, pedestrian friendly at-grade boulevard.

118. Below is a breakdown of the potential value of new development adjacent to the boulevard. These figures do not include the increase in value of properties more than a few blocks away, such as the Ballpark Village site, or existing buildings currently adjacent to the Arch. Chouteau’s Landing District $133,000,000 Broadway and Spruce Lot developed $126,000,000 New Parcels facing Memorial & the Arch $ 69,000,000 Surface lots on Broadway near Convention Center $ 21,000,000 New Parcels east of Jones Dome $ 22,000,000 Laclede’s Landing Parcels @ Eads Bridge $107,000,000 North Riverfront fronting Memorial $136,000,000 Bottle District & off boulevard North Riverfront $543,000,000 Total Real Estate Value $1,156,000,000

119. More uses are needed inside the park to draw more individuals, better connectivity to other parts of downtown, closing the interstate (I-70) with a more pedestrian oriented boulevard, memorial drive should remain open to traffic, and more activities such as bike trails are essential in improving the experience of visiting downtown and the Arch Grounds.

 

JNEM City+Arch+River Environmental Assessment – All Public Comments 11-23-2011

*I currently serve as the Chair of City to River

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  • Dave

    Where is the LIKE button?  :)

  • http://yastlblog.blogspot.com/ Kevin Barbeau

    “We will be considering these comments as we develop alternatives for City Arch River 2015 project components on NPS property, and as we evaluate the potential impacts of those alternatives.”

    I suspect this is no casually-written statement and will be the standard response going forward. This “on NPS property” line will definitely come into play as a way to ignore the I-70 issue until the design process is too far gone.With that said, there were a whole lot of intelligently (yet passionately) written comments there. Certainly hard to ignore, and I hope some local outlets pick this story up and run with it. If we are somehow able to change the direction of this project and get rid of I-70, that is a MAJOR step forward and yet another instance of the passionate few raising awareness and creating change in our city.

  • Rick

    There is some belief that the ground under the depressed lanes, all the way to the west curb line of Memorial Drive, is under a reversionary interest to the National Park Service/lease to MODOT/FHA.

    Regardless, this outpouring of public sentiment speaks volumes.  Should it die here or should the City to River vision for a reconnected downtown/urban core and riverfront stay alive?

  • Guest

    Gee, if I would have known, I would have commented. 123 comments out of how many? Millions of federal taxpayers is NOT conclusive. 

    There’s still 50,000 vehicles a day who are going to want to transfer from I-55 to/from I-70 WITHOUT crossing the river daily; these are the people who drive through the depressed section. You’ve seen the back-ups, usually due to rubberneckers, when a lane is closed due to construction or there’s an accident. That’s just a small amount of traffic… imagine dumping that traffic all of the time onto a boulevard with traffic signals–you’re going to anger more than you’re going to please if you eliminate the depressed section without a reasonable bypass.

    The general public did not comment to the NPS. Only the people who are really adamant about their views commented.

    The Gateway Arch is in need of repairs. This country is over $15 TRILLION IN DEBT.

    We can’t afford it, above all else. I don’t appreciate being forced to pay for this. 

    How about curbing the crime first? How about curbing the political corruption first?

    Where are your priorities?

    • Alex Ihnen

      And that’s part of our issue – we think many more people should have been aware of the opportunity to comment – and then we wish more people would have commented. Clearly more than 95% of the public is likely not in favor of converting I-70 to a boulevard. Regarding traffic, Kingshighway at Forest Park handles this amount of traffic every day quite well – as does Michigan Avenue in Chicago and many other places that successful encourage pedestrians and business – as well as accommodating cars.

      If you follow the site much, you know we address crime and political corruption as well. Can’t be a one-trick pony! :) The point is to provide viewpoints on many issues. Pretty simple, eh? Yes, the nation’s in debt. Yes, the Arch needs repair. The issue here, though, is that a group of civic leaders (the people you should really be upset with) are working hard to round up $578M to close streets, put in new sidewalks and build more highway infrastructure. Our point is that the money would be better spent truly connecting the city to the river and setting the stage for private development.