PWP-Foster+Partners-Civitas Weighs In on I-70 Removal

Before today we knew that four of the five design teams had identified I-70 removal as the best long-term solution to reconnect the city to the Arch and river. Today, we know that all five teams believe that I-70 must be removed. Every team except PWP-Foster+Partners-Civitas has addressed I-70 removal and City to River either in the design proposal boards, the longer design narrative, or both. More than one team presented the merits of such a proposal at length. Click here to read original post regarding four of five design teams supporting I-70 removal.

During the team presentation and jury interview, PWP presenter and namesake Peter Walker stated that until we can remove I-70, we won’t be able to make the most of Memorial Drive. I spoke with Peter immediately after the presentation and he had the following to say, “We’re anticipating I-70 will be removed, but not in our (2015) time frame. I think it will happen. Not only would our design not be in the way of a boulevard, but we designed so that it purposely works with a boulevard.”

The effort led by City to River to remove the 1.4-mile stretch of I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge north to the landing of the new Mississippi River Bridge received a warm welcome from four of the five design teams when design boards and narratives were released this past week.

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

The one omission was PWP-Foster+Partners-Civitas. In fact, the team appeared to build more infrastructure, adding Interstate ramps and removing other connections. The east side of Memorial Drive would be closed and the new west museum entrance is located in its place and directly on top of the I-70 lanes. It remains to be explained how this design would incorporate a boulevard.

One possibility is that a boulevard would run underneath a lid connecting the Gateway Mall to the Arch. Because the maximum gradient for a city street is much more steep than for an Interstate highway, at-grade intersections at Walnut and Pine become practical. Asked why the team chose to keep two lanes of Memorial Drive open at all, (the current southbound lanes west of I-70 would become a two-lane, two-way street) Walker said it would be a temporary arrangement to allow a convenient drop-off point for cars and buses.

Two things have become clear regarding I-70 removal. From an urban design perspective, it must be removed in order to best connect the city to the arch and river. Second, the five design teams decided that it could not be accomplished before October 2015. I remain convinced that if those motivated to “move heaven and earth” to get some great improvements to the Arch grounds proper completed by the end of 2015 were to turn their focus to I-70 removal that it could be done.

But, the competition’s deadline has a real and welcome mission. Without a deadline we may sit and watch a winning plan sit on a shelf for 15 years or more. So let’s build what we can build to a relatively finished state for 2015. Let’s celebrate the vision of Saarinen and Kiley. But let’s also do what each of the five teams have recognized; the job isn’t finished in 2015. Without community support and continued public and private investment, and continued efforts to provide better connections to the Arch and river, St. Louis will not have fulfilled its promise and truly me the goal before us.