After 60 Years, Skinker/Clayton Intersection Redesign Will Accommodate Pedestrians

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Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

They must have thought that the future would be a place where no one would wish to walk to a park. It’s honestly a challenge to understand how a place such as this was ever built, how it would not be patently obvious that building a place that excluded people would well, exclude people.

St. Louis ran a parkway, then an Interstate through its signature park, removed sidewalks, or failed to build them, and never thought that someone on a bicycle might wish to traverse the city. In a city not flush with redevelopment funds, such shortsighted development take a very, very long time to correct.

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO{if you look close enough, you can spot a cyclist and pedestrian}

Skinker-Clayton{existing crosswalk in yellow, added crosswalks shown in blue}

Plans for the Skinker Boulevard/Clayton Road intersection (Interstate 64, Oakland Avenue, Clayton Avenue, and McCausland Avenue converge here too), include added crosswalks, pedestrian light buttons, and curb cuts. Those are relatively easy, but realigning all the traffic lights and lanes is expensive, meaning the project will cost about $2M.

This is a great project and will improve the connectivity between the southwest corner of Forest Park and surrounding neighborhoods greatly. The number of signalized pedestrian crosswalks will grow from one to eight. Oakland Avenue gets a road diet, bike lanes, and a sidewalk. New crosswalks are introduced at Louisville Avenue and Tamm (at Turtle Park).

Skinker and Clayton Avenue at Oakland:

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

It’s a challenging morass of streets and roads, but plans appear to offer much simplified, and safer connections to the existing Forest Park path system. The intersection sees significant use by cyclists and pedestrians today, and added connectivity should encourage even greater use.

The project is possible now due to $1.6M in federal Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality funding. Funding requires improvements for pedestrians without negatively impacting vehicle capacity (yes, federal requirements for funding must change if we’re to build a more dense, sustainable, and livable community). Alderpersons Lyda Krewson-28th Ward, and Scott Ogilvie-24th Ward committed a combined $200,000 and the Forest Park bond issue provided a like amount to meet local match requirements.

Skinker at Clayton Road and I-64 ramps:

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

There are trade offs inherent in federally funded projects. Engineering plans show the removal of a large turning radius at Oakland and Skinker, labeled “Encourages Faster Vehicles and Not Pedestrian Friendly” (also from southbound Skinker to westbound Clayton Road), and then the introduction of a larger turning radius from westbound I-64 off ramp to both northbound and southbound Skinker because “Small Radius Causes Vehicles to Track Over Existing Curb Ramp”, and “Vehicles Encroach Onto Median”.

That’s how to keep the traffic flowing while adding pedestrian amenities. Looking at the big picture here, the trade-off is more than worth it, as park-goers and residents must currently navigate a 1960s intersection which never considered their presence. Construction should begin in Spring 2015 and take a couple months to complete. Additional information and plan specifics will be on view at an informal open house at St. Mark’s Luthern Church, 6337 Clayton Rd., planned for 6 to 7pm Wednesday, April 30th.

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

Skinker at Clayton Road project - St. Louis, MO

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  • John

    Nice – I have navigated this on my bike and it’s a bit rough. Too bad they didn’t think of non-cars when they left .9 miles of the south end of the park impenetrable between Hampton and the Science Center underpass. Bring back pedestrian bridges!

  • Herbie Markwort

    Exiting the highway at Skinker last night, I saw 3 bikers cross in front of me while I waited at the red light at 9:20pm. This will be a huge improvement for everybody needing to cross this intersection.

  • John R

    This looks like a great advance. Arguably the intersection/area with the most need for treatment in the city. Grand & Forest Park Parkway area hopefully will be next for close examination; in fact the entirety of FPP from CWE to S. Grand needs help.

  • rgbose

    The image above shows one bike lane on each side next to parking. Herbie says this could fit having both bike lanes on the north side and protected.

    • Herbie Markwort

      Yes, you could fit a 10-ft two-way bike lane on the north side, protected by parking, while preserving parking on both sides of the street. However, the idea is still too radical for the City of St. Louis and they are going the more traditional route by introducing standard bike lanes on Oakland, which is still a substantial improvement over existing conditions. Maybe sometime in the future, St. Louis will feel comfortable replacing bike lanes with protected cycle tracks as has happened in Seattle on Linden Ave.

      • rgbose

        I think we’re running into the same reluctance on Des Peres

  • JZ71

    Hopefully they end up with better lane alignments – the current lane shift from the WB I-64 exit ramp, onto WB Clayton, confuses way too many people!

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes. You really have to make sure you’re not next to another vehicle there. Seems more often than not I see cars driving straight ahead and unknowingly changing lanes.

  • samizdat

    Seems like a great location for a full-blown traffic circle.

  • Presbyterian

    That is a pretty horrible intersection, not just for cyclists and pedestrians, but for cars as well. I’ll beglad to see improvements.

  • Luftmentsch

    Long overdue. (It’s pure luck that no has been killed there.) Wasn’t the intersection redone around the I-64 reconstruction?

    • Alex Ihnen

      The bridges over I-64 were replaced, but the surface streets were left as-is.

  • Christine Lakey

    I’m a regular there! My dog and I thank you. Any construction time and congestion will pale in comparison with the benefits! Thank you.

  • ben

    You could really simplify and improve that intersection by eliminating the little stub of Clayton between the gas station and the Hi Pointe and then redeveloping the new SW corner of Skinker or McCausland and Clayton Rd.

  • Wendy

    I don’t understand why they are putting in the 3-way stop at Louisville, a one-way street, rather than Sanford which is a two-way street. Given that Louisville is one-way South there is no place for a stop sign on Louisville at Oakland and no need for traffic to pull out onto Oakland – the reverse is true at Sanford.

  • cleeland

    I’m trying to figure out why Oakland needs bike lanes at all. It’s a very low-volume road with two lanes in each direction already. A cyclist can easily occupy the right lane and drivers still have ample opportunity to overtake. Why not apply treatments on streets where they can really help?

    Also, why put up more stop signs? Put in a traffic circles, and replace existing stop with traffic circles. It has a far more effective calming effect and the radius can be configured to encourage the desired maximum speed. Also makes it easy to provide a mid-street pedestrian crossing refuge.

  • Ron Stevens
  • guest

    It’s interesting the way some parts of the city are making bold moves, while others are mired in inertia. It makes you wonder why?

  • Chris Naffziger

    I know this might be admitting defeat, but maybe this is a good location for a pedestrian bridge? They’re used in Europe successfully in very congested intersections. I just can’t see the modern American motorist ever being moral enough to watch out for pedestrians and cyclists at Clayton and Skinker…

    • Alex Ihnen

      There are some nice ped bridges along Storrow Drive in Boston. That’s basically an Interstate for a stretch along the Charles River, or like Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. The ped bridge at Des Peres and Forest Park Parkway looks like a pretty good idea. Most of the cost in this project is fixing the lane and signal alignments. A ped bridge would likely be a couple million dollars. That said, there should be several more along I-64 at the park.