BJC, City Streets Department Remove Crosswalk, Create 8-minute Intersection

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Forest Park / Euclid intersection - St. Louis, MO

At what is likely one of the very busiest pedestrian crossings in the City of St. Louis, the city’s Streets Department at the request of BJC Healthcare recently removed a painted crosswalk and erected barricades to prevent people from crossing. Of course people still cross the street here, thought it’s more dangerous than ever.

The barricades often aren’t enough of a deterrent, and so a police officer is often stationed here to offer a brief and pointed admonishment – though this author has watched more than a few pedestrians cross under the watchful eye of an officer where the crosswalk no longer exists without a peep. Sure law enforcement sees this as a silly exercise.

We asked via Twitter if the crosswalk is being improved for pedestrians or removed. We asked a second time if the crosswalk was being removed, then asked again if either the Streets Department or BJC Healthcare could confirm. The Streets Department obfuscated in their reply: “BJC doing traffic changes in conjunction with new bldg, new crosswalk to be installed soon.” Turns out “soon” means different things to different people.

A further inquiry to June Fowler, BJC Healthcare VP-Corporate and Public Communications informed us that the crosswalk has been removed for at least two years “in conjunction with construction on the north end of the medical center campus”. This should not be an acceptable status for the intersection for the next two years. Institutions and cities can sometimes take the long view, while residents and users are forced to live in a city day-to-day.

Forest Park / Euclid Avenue intersection - St. Louis, MO{regardless of barricades, pedestrians will continue to cross on the west side}

Forest Park / Euclid crosswalk - St. Louis, MO{conflicting signs, but a clear message – west side crosswalk being removed}

We’re petitioning for the crosswalk to be returned immediately, a pedestrian study to be conducted, and added pedestrian infrastructure to be added to this intersection. Input from those using the intersection should be considered and their voices included in future planning, as well as interim solutions. For some reason, “temporarily” inconveniencing pedestrians for two years while ensuring a clear path for cars appears to be the perfectly acceptable default.

Even before the change, the intersection did its best to repel pedestrians. Some refer to the harried crossing as the “Barnes Dance”, a reference to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The pedestrian signal crossing Euclid is on a 2m45sec cycle. The Forest Park pedestrian signal is on a 3m cycle. This means that with the west side crossing removed, a person wishing to travel from the northwest to southwest corner will spend 8m30sec to cross. Eight minutes and thirty seconds to navigate a city street intersection at a busy pedestrian crossing.

Forest Park / Euclid Avenue intersection - St. Louis, MO{aerial view shows westside crosswalk (top) now removed, and the pedestrian zone mess}

Forest Park Avenue carries nine traffic lanes on the east and west sides of the intersection. The problem here is in no way that cars lack space, or that pedestrians occlude traffic, but that clear, basic, functional infrastructure for anyone not in a car is ignored. “Improvements” like this demonstrate that neither the city, nor the entities at the medical campus really care about pedestrians and the urban environment.

If you don’t know the context, on the south side of the Forest Park Avenue at this intersection is the Washington University, BJC Healthcare medical campus, which also contains the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, the new Shriners Hospital, and much more. Approximately 15,000 people work on the campus. To the north along Euclid Avenue is the city’s most pedestrian oriented commercial corridor. This is where many of those employees and students eat, drink, and live.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be a shock. Relative to the number of pedestrians navigating the medical campus and surrounding neighborhoods, Washington University and BJC Healthcare continue to be surprisingly unfriendly to those not in a car. A couple years ago, a small pedestrian refuge was added to the east side of Euclid at Forest Park, giving pedestrians a place to hide if they get caught in the middle of the nine traffic lanes while crossing. The medical campus also spends millions to build elevated walkways so that their employees and visitors don’t have to be street level pedestrians.

BJC campus - Taylor Avenue{the pedestrian realm isn’t a priority along even well-traveled streets at the medical center – Taylor Avenue}

Undoubtedly, it’s a significant challenge to move employees, visitors and patients around the campus – most of whom do arrive by car (and then become pedestrians). Comically narrow sidewalks, massive parking garages fronting city streets, investing in highway infrastructure before transit, and so on show the medical campus isn’t serious about plight of pedestrians.

The mistake continuing here and across the city and metro area is to build car infrastructure to serve peak traffic. The nine traffic lanes on Forest Park Avenue at Euclid are meant to accommodate the relatively high traffic of morning and evening commutes. This effort is detrimental to all other purposes city streets are meant to serve.

Want to create a place where people want to be, where restaurants and retail can thrive and a sustainable community take root? Add mid-block pedestrian crosswalks (as we want to see on Lindell Boulevard to the north) along the 1,000+ft Forest Park Avenue blocks, make the Forest Park/Euclid intersection a pedestrian scramble, build a protected bike lane on Forest Park Avenue, reduce the number of traffic lanes. And don’t worry, cars will continue to thrive in this environment. We know how to do these things, it’s a matter of priorities.

Forest Park / Euclid Avenue intersection - St. Louis, MO{the Forest Park/Euclid intersection looking west}

Changes like this happen quite frequently in St. Louis. A corporation or institution (or several residents) makes a request to close a street, put up a stop sign, remove a crosswalk, often “temporarily”, and voila, it’s done. These decisions deserve and require scrutiny. To that end, we have started a petition asking that BJC Healthcare and the City of St. Louis return the removed crosswalk, study options and invest in additional pedestrian amenities at this intersection.

We can hope better pedestrian accommodation is coming to this intersection, eventually, but hope isn’t a valid planning tool. We should demand participation in planning pedestrian accommodation now, over the next two years, and in the future.

BJC petition

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  • Thomas R Shrout Jr

    What’s more Tuesday morning a service van was parked on the sidewalk next to Applebees, further exacerbating the problem

  • Sean McElligott

    Is they any way for people to walk across the street now?

    • Alex Ihnen

      As you can see in the pictures, people are often simply walking around the barricades and crossing without a crosswalk. The other option is to wait 2m45sec to cross Euclid, then 3min to cross FP Ave, then another 2m45sec to cross Euclid – if you’re headed that way. If it sounds like a small issue – take a walk and see what it’s like. It’s doesn’t appear that anyone making the decision did so.

  • Mathew Chandler

    I think such an institution should be considered with the health and safety of the local citizens. I guess it doesn’t care, this seems counter productive to promoting health and safety. Pedestrians will most certainly cross regardless. Signed.

  • Austin Persson

    Signed.

  • Anon Y. Mous

    Waiting for comment, “The people who made this decision have a lot more information than some whiny Millennial blogger, and if they decided this was best then it’s what’s best and so it will be that way and people can still cross the street so what’s the problem and crime and schools are really the problem and…”

  • T-Leb

    Pedestrians > Cars

  • John R

    Of course this also is the primary intersection to take people from Metrolink to the CWE…. adding minutes to access it is a major fail.

  • brickhugger

    Everyone (or at least a lot of ppl) who uses that intersection should call (and I mean each and every time) 1) the alderman (Joe Roddy), 2) the street department, 3) the Citizen’s Service Bureau, and 4) BJC’s corporate office. If those entities received 50+ calls a day, EVERY DAY, the matter would be resolved within days.

    • Alex Ihnen

      I’d love to stand at the corner with the petition – or an iPad or a handout with the URL, but it’s difficult to find time to do that. What I really wanted to do is stand out there with a big sign with two buttons on it – each with a counter. The sign would read, “Please restore the crosswalk” and “I feel safe crossing the street” and see which button was pressed most often.

  • Imran

    So, anyone know how eliminating a pedestrian crossing helps with construction of the new buildings?

    • Enthusiast

      I think you would have to look at the anticipated amount of additional traffic that closing Parkview will produce, and closing Parkview is critical in construction. That is why there has been substantial changes on the CAM side of the Euclid/ FPP intersection, I.e. additional left turn lane and removal of that planted medium.

      I assume it would add A LOT of left turns out of that intersection onto FPP and therefore significantly impact safety of this closed pedestrian crossing. With the closing of Parkview you are taking all of those people who would leave the North Garage/ CAM and eventually turn left onto Kingshighway and diverting them onto FPP and then to Kingshighway.

      In my opinion that is why this crosswalk was closed, and I do believe it is for the best.

      If anything, while making the left turn signal onto FPP longer, the east crosswalk will get a longer walk time.

      • Imran

        Thanks. That does make sense though leads me then to wonder why they really need to close Parkview for two years. The renderings show a couple of sky walks between the future buildings. If highway bridges can be built with a few overnight/weekend closures, why not try something similar here? Even a couple narrower lanes would give them more construction room and not impact the FPP intersection as much.

      • Thomas R Shrout Jr

        I was just through the intersection and it appears the walk time to cross FPP was reduced by 5 to 10 seconds.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I don’t believe in any way that this is justification for removing the crosswalk. There are traffic pressures and changes many places. What always appears to happen in STL where pedestrian and traffic pressures collide is that pedestrians lose. It’s not smart planning and should be unacceptable.

        • Enthusiast

          I feel like your line “collide…pedestrians lose” is especially interesting.

          It is still my opinion that there is a safety concern at this intersection. And I will completely agree that these decisions should not be taken lightly. However, you have to think of these elements as a system of movement and not single crosswalk.

          While closing a crosswalk is not ideal, exceptions have to be made. Every other metropolitan area in the country will let construction close sidewalks for extended amounts of time.

          I admit that I disagree personally with your “all or nothing” approach to this matter, I do appreciate your drive and dedication for pedestrianism in the city.

      • Nick

        I think this just further proves Alex’s argument. The people driving cars are being given priority over the people walking. It’s not a safety issue any more than at any other intersection where people make left turns. This happens over and over again in St. Louis. Look at all the construction sites where the sidewalk is closed due to construction but no path is added for people to walk. Lots of cities require contractors to provide an adjacent walkway when they close a sidewalk.

  • matimal

    This is a teachable moment. Lobby aldermen and publicize it. Make the case for pedestrianism beyond this site.

  • matthb

    Time for a Walk Across? Line up 100 people and walk single-file in across the street where the cross walk used to be.

  • http://donspoliticalblog.blogspot.com Don

    So the east side cross-walk remains, or is that closed too?

  • superbadgirl

    They have completely closed Parkview Place, which led to KHWY for the demo of that building at Parkview and Kingshighway. That means anyone exiting valet parking or the garage has to go around the FPP corner to get back out to Kingshighway. Please believe me – as I have done it many times both before and after the closure – it’s a giant mess for cars. If they don’t do whatever they can to move cars through that intersection as quickly as possible it will jam up all of the people trying to get in and out for their cancer treatments, many of whom CANNOT WALK. I understand it sucks for pedestrians, but it sucks for people in cars too, many of whom are seriously ill. And to say that intersection is used by pedestrian patients of the hospital is misleading, most of the patients will park in the parking garage next to Siteman if that’s where they’re going, not park in the CWE and wander over. The people inconvenienced are mostly able-bodied hospital visitors and workers, and I am sorry it sucks for them, it also sucks for an ambulance trying to transport someone out of the hospital, since it took more than 40 minutes for my brother’s ambulance to get out of the hospital and to Highway 40 last night. By the way, Great Job, jerk who suggested blocking the intersection with pedestrians just for funsies, my 73 year old hysterical mother who can barely navigate that area anyway would probably get stuck and have a heart attack and/or panic attack trying to get home after spending the day in the ICU with my brother. What a bunch of thoughtless jerks you “walkable city” advocates seem to be.

    • Alex Ihnen

      While I truly sympathize with your anecdotes and do not wish to lessen the personal impact, I don’t believe that this predicted doomsday gridlock is in any way factual. Anyone who would like to can sit and observe this intersection and see for themselves. Many people in motorized wheelchairs, elderly, people with children, and on and on navigate this area daily. It’s a balancing act to be sure, and IF the crosswalk truly causes gridlock and people sit for 40mins longer than they otherwise would have, let’s talk.

      • superbadgirl

        OK so yesterday, when this happened, it didn’t happen? I will be sure to tell everyone in my family and we will all be glad that we got extra sleep.

        I am all for walkable spaces, and I think BJ could have planned better, definitely, but pedestrians blocking the street to prove a point is just nasty. My main observation is that it is sucking for everyone right now, so please don’t act like some major transgression has been acted upon *just* pedestrians.

        • Adam

          Forget about the blocking the intersection thing. Agreed that was a stupid comment but has nothing to do with the argument that removing the crosswalk isn’t going to improve the flow of traffic and is going to make it more difficult for all kinds of people to cross this pedestrian-heavy intersection in a city that regularly sh*ts on its pedestrians. In any case, the crosswalk clearly had nothing to do with your brother’s 40 minute wait since it’s not there anymore.

      • Wayne

        I’ve been turning right on FPP from Euclid every morning for the last year and, anecdotally, things are moving much more slowly this week than in the past. Cars are backing up the entire block to Laclede and the light is cycling multiple times before a car can get through. I’ll note, too, that pedestrians are crossing on the west side at just about the same rate as before.

      • T-Leb

        Someone should set up a GoPro and collect video of the intersection issues. Seeing is believing and probably will elicit some change.

    • STLEnginerd

      Maybe the petiotion should be for the reopening of Euclid to the South, and Parkview to the East. Clearly by creating a pedestrian mall in the middle of the hospital has made traffic patterns in and around the hospital inflexible to minor disruptions like closing Parkview to the West.

      I’d agree that holistic view of the relavent factors is needed but in many ways Barnes brought this on themselves by closing Euclid to through traffic. The traffic SHOULD be able to divert easily to the south and west but can’t because someone decided to close those streets.

    • jhoff1257

      Actually, we’re not “thoughtless jerks.” We just prefer to think about those people that our “thoughtless” engineers and city planners routinely ignore. There are many factors at play here. One, you’re attempting to navigate one of the largest hospital complexes in the United States (one that is perpetually under construction, I might add). Two, that said complex sits in the center of some of the densest, most walkable, and transit friendly neighborhoods in the region, if not the state. And three, many of the streets in the BJC complex have either been closed, rerouted, or significantly altered (either permanently or temporarily). To blame it on people that like to walk is utterly ridiculous.

      I want to add that I’m not trying to discount your family’s health issues. I’ve been there myself. My mom had cancer 3 times, all 4 of my grand parents have spent significant time in hospitals for various cancers, heart issues, etc. I understand the stress and frustration, but taking it out on those of us that want a safer city for all modes of travel is a little misguided.

    • Imran

      Thanks for the first insult hurled in this discussion. Very mature indeed.

    • Steve Kluth

      Tell it to the man in a wheelchair who crossed the intersection on tonight’s 6PM news. I’m sure he completely understood your impatience in your car.

  • Brian Guy

    As wide as FPP is, you have plenty of vehicle storage to have a pedestrian-exclusive phase to cross FPP. Then, there wouldn’t be a left-turning conflict. The ped signals also already have “beg buttons” to change the timing.

    Alternatively, Euclid could be split-phased with left-arrows for left-turning traffic. Essentially, peds could cross the east leg of FPP, when the north leg of Euclid has its exclusive phase, while crossing the west leg of FPP, when the south leg of Euclid has its exclusive phase. And since the west leg of FPP is wider to cross, and the south leg of Euclid has the most traffic (thanks to BJC/WU), then such timing would benefit both motorists and peds.

    • Anonymous123

      Euclid is already split-phased because there’s not enough room for the northbound and southbound lefts to turn at the same time. The problem is that there isn’t enough time for pedestrians to cross FPP with the southbound phase without taking a lot of time away from FPP because the street is so wide.

      While I almost always side with the pedestrian and bike causes in STL, this is not the best situation for peds or vehicles and people just have to knuckle under until the construction is complete. If there were any other way for vehicles to exit this part of the BJC campus it would have been utilized, but there isn’t… deal with it.

      • Alex Ihnen

        And this is what anyone not in a car is told over and over and over again all around St. Louis. Sucks to be you, deal with it. It shouldn’t be that way. If the city hadn’t allowed WU/BJC to close a number of streets through this part of the city, drivers would have several options to come and go. Streets can even be closed on a regular basis if need be, but then be available for situations like this. Or as you say, anyone not in a car can just “deal with it”.

        • Anonymous 123

          You are correct, the city should not have allowed the closure of most of the street grid in the area. The trend of closing streets and crosswalks for seemingly arbitrary reasons across the whole city is extremely poor planning practice. But this closure was for a completely explainable and observable reason: all of the traffic from Parkview has no place to go but Euclid and it’s all going to turn left onto Forest Park. Couple that with the fact that the majority of the traffic in the North Garage and CAM valet is visitors who are not familiar with the area, you’re going to end up with a lot of near misses in the crosswalk on the west side if not some accidents.

          • Adam

            Why would you end up with more near misses here than at any other light/crosswalk? Pedestrians cross while autos have a red light. Autos turn while pedestrians have a red light. That’s how it works everywhere.

  • Former Traffic Engineer

    I don’t drive near there much and I have no idea on the timing of these photos included in the story, but please do a quick comparison between the third one down (showing sign and construction barricades, probably fairly recent) in combination with the fourth one (aerial, probably much older). Specifically look at the median. You’ll notice in the aerial that the median extends way out beyond the end of the guard rail (past a nub of some sort, which I presume to be an old traffic signal base), forcing the crosswalk out into the intersection. Also, I’m sure the construction on the north side of the street played a part in that issue. Now, look at the other photo – the curbed portion of the median has been trimmed back significantly and there are construction barricades in the middle covering up what is now beneath the old curb. My assumption based on these photos is that they are modifying that side of the intersection to put the crosswalk in a better spot, farther west.

    • http://www.gatewaystreets.org/ Herbie Markwort

      Nope. BJC nor STL Streets have any intention of replacing the crosswalk for the next 2 years. The median curb on the west side was trimmed back to make way for the second left turn lane only. No room left for a crosswalk.

      • Former Traffic Engineer

        Got a source on that? I feel like we’re all operating on assumptions here.

        • http://www.gatewaystreets.org/ Herbie Markwort

          Yup, straight from Todd Waeltermann. (STLtoday live chat)

          “Because of construction at BJC, Park View is being closed so all the trafiic is being diverted to Euclid to get to Kingshighway via Forest Park. The crosswalk on the west side of Euclid is eliminated until this work is complete. You should only cross on the east side of this intersection.”

      • Former Traffic Engineer

        And I’m not referring to a quote, but rather a plan of some sort.

  • John R

    I wonder how much traffic patterns will change once the TG/Boyle/I-64 work is completed later this month… I assume at least some additional traffic will be accessing BJC from the east from Euclid. I wouldn’t be surprised If its a significant amount. That should help free up some of the car issues but make it even more frustrating for the pedestrians funneled into the single cross-walk.

    • John R

      ^ to clarify…. I suspect a lot of autos will access Euclid/BJC from the east instead of from K-way.

  • Steve Kluth

    There are plenty of intersections where left turns are prohibited. By eliminating left turns from FP to Euclid in both directions, traffic would move much more smoothly with plenty of time for pedestrian crossings across both streets.

  • Alex Ihnen

    The KMOV story: http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Some-concerned-Central-West-End-crosswalk-is-unsafe-for-pedestrians-267585391.html

    Short story: City says 30% more traffic turning into medical campus justifies removing crosswalk. BJC says they’ll put up more signs to make people aware.

    • Adam

      “BJC says they’ll put up more signs to make people aware.”

      how considerate of them.

  • kjohnson04

    This isn’t new around there. MoDOT had Euclid and Newstead bridge sidewalks closed for months after the bridge was completed, forcing pedestrians into the street. This doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Hate to ask this, but what work are they doing? The building on the side has been finished for years. Looks like more artificial pedestrian inconvenience measures…again.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Parkview is closed to the south – putting more cars through FP/Euclid intersection. They didn’t do it for no reason, but it’s still not good enough to create a much worse situation for pedestrians for at least a couple years.

  • Mike F

    ‘…has been removed for at least two years “in conjunction with construction on the north end of the medical center campus”.’

    “BJC doing traffic changes in conjunction with new bldg, new crosswalk to be installed soon.”

    Mr. Ihnen, I believe that you are being entirely too kind by referring to these statements as “obfuscation”. Let’s be unequivocal here: this is lying, pure and simple. While you are obviously being circumspect with regards to your statement of ‘obfuscation’, for good reason (lawsuits from the weak and insecure who make these types of statements), I, and no doubt others who have been on this planet for more than a few years, can attest to our experience with this variety of deliberately misleading apparatchik-speak.

    The crosswalk is a couple of hundred feet from the construction site, and unless BJC or the City has designs on this as a staging area for construction vehicles/materiel (which would put not only pedestrians at risk, but motorists), its continued presence bears no risk for either its users or BJC and the City. If BJC and the City were truly concerned about pedestrians near this location, in reference to the construction, they would at the very least close the FPP entrance from Kings’way., and limit right turns to the vacated Euclid only on a green light. That would be a start.

    For whatever reason, BJC wanted this crosswalk gone, and, just like vacating Euclid through the complex, the City made all of BJC’s dreams come true, with little to no regard to what the residents or pedestrian-users of this area think.

    The City does this for most, if not all, of the institutional/corporate ghettos located around the CWE and downtown, again with little to no input either solicited or acknowledged. And yet many here will say the usual, “but, but, but…my Alderman X is just such a great guy…”, “Institution X is a major source of jobs in the City, so sometimes a few feathers get ruffled”, “I think Politician X is doing a great job for the City”, and so on.

    There is a direct connection between our representation, and the attitudes and treatment we receive at the hands of those who run the City. While there are limited responses under current conditions to the wealthy and connected who contribute to this corruption, it could be that a concerted effort to disavow suspect representatives, and seek more-informed, open-minded people to house the offices currently occupied by the corrupt will bring about the atmosphere by which actual progress can be made in this podunk little burgh. We can either change the minds of the wealthy and the connected, and those who serve their interests to the detriment of the people, or make their presence irrelevant in City government.