MLK Bridge Across Mississippi to Get Unnecessary Lane Reduction, Leaving One Westbound Lane

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{graphic courtesy of Post-Dispatch}

If you’ve been following the streetscape projects on South Grand and Manchester Avenue’s in St. Louis City you know that I’m in favor of lane reductions in commercial districts surrounded by residential. This basically has to do with pedestrian safety and comfort which provides a more welcoming environment for people and as a result businesses. But here lanes are being reduced on the Martin Luther King Bridge which spans the Mississippi River in downtown St. Louis, just south of the Eads Bridge.

Why is this a bad thing? Primarily because it’s unclear that a problem exists or that there are not other solutions to concerns about safety. There is no concern with pedestrians or other forms of transportation here as the MLK is a vehicle-only roadway. The impetus for the installation of concrete barriers and the resulting lane reduction is safety.


{photo courtesy of Post-Dispatch}

A Post-Dispatch story reports stepped-up enforcement on the bridge: “Illinois State Police Lt. Michael Lennix said the state has issued 2,200 citations — including 1,510 for speeding — and 1,369 warnings on the King and McKinley bridges since it stepped up patrols in January. During that time, there has been only one crash on the King Bridge and none on the McKinley.”

So if stepped-up patrols have resulted in only one crash on the MLK bridge from January to October is there really a need for a barrier? The story highlights the complaint that motorists simply drive too fast on the bridge. If anything, separating traffic and widening lanes will make drivers drive faster, not slower.

In the name of increasing safety we constantly build roads that minimize interference for the drive, allowing them to drive faster. This is the wrong solution. The current speed limit on the bridge is 45 MPH. Why not explore lowering it? Why not consider rumble strips on the bridge to reduced speed? I image that there are other options as well. Safety is absolutely important, but this seems to be a classic overbuild and the wrong solution to a questionable problem.

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