MoDOT Announces Public Meeting to Discuss Alternatives for Lid over I-70 at Arch

what I-70_2The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) has announced a public meeting to discuss “several proposed alternatives for the Park over the Highway portion of the CAR2015 project.” The CityArchRiver preferred euphemism for the “lid”, the “Park over the Highway” as currently designed would remove several blocks of city streets, necessitating the reversal and widening of existing I-70 highway ramps and additional highway infrastructure to retain access to Washington Avenue from the south. The new ramps would necessitate the removal of the Pine Street bridge, one of just four access points along the Arch grounds.

The meeting, set for 3:00-5:00 p.m., next Tuesday, April 10, may be the only official opportunity for individuals to converse with MoDOT regarding what is a significantly flawed design. From the MoDOT release, it appear the meeting will be more of an “open-house”, similar to the recent Loop Trolley updates, with displays and people on hand to answer questions and receive feedback. This is meant to fulfill the minimum Federal requirements for public participation in the project.

To-date, just a single rendering and surrounding infrastructure design has been offered by project organizers. The Arch design competition winning design by Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates (MVVA) showed a one-block lid with extended “noise mitigation hoods” extending to the north and south. In this design, Memorial Drive remains in place. This retains the existing street grid, making the Arch grounds more accessible and a more integral part of the city.

Leaving Memorial Drive in place saves millions of dollars. Sunk costs in additional highway infrastructure today will preclude any significant redesign for decades. Specifically, retaining Memorial Drive better preserves the option to convert 1.4 miles of I-70 into an urban boulevard that would stitch together downtown’s most visited attractions (Arch, Busch Stadium, Lumiere Casino and the Landing, the Edward Jones Dome and convention center).

I currently serve as chair of the citizen’s advocacy group City to River, an organization dedicated to enhancing connections between the river and neighborhoods of the central riverfront. We have been articulating the need to study the possibility of highway conversion for several years. In addition to the potential of such a project, we believe that removing city streets as currently planned would decrease connections between the city, the Arch and the riverfront. Many individuals and organizations have expressed support for a more comprehensive and public examination of options for this project that will dictate development patterns in the city for decades.

In addition to massive projects that would reverse and rebuilt highway ramps and more, smaller, more practical, and likely more impactful interventions should be fully explored. The experience of walking from the city to the Arch could be better, needs to be better. Cincinnati’s approach to its city and riverfront offer an excellent example of a path St. Louis should explore, one that does not further disconnect a city by removing streets. The images below highlight the dramatic difference seen in the two extraordinarily similar settings. The Arch connection shown in Pine Street and would be removed in the current Arch project design.

While it’s a positive step that for the first time in more than three years, the public will have the opportunity to view and discuss alternatives to the currently proposed lid, giving eight days notice for a public meeting to be held on a Tuesday at 3:00 p.m. displays a lack of priority given to the public part of a “public meeting”. The meeting is labeled an “open-house style” event and it’s difficult to see it as anything other than an FYI regarding whatever final design has been selected. Clearly, it’s imperative that those with an interest in the future of this part of the city attend, at least those who are able to get away from work, make arrangements for childcare, get downtown and spend an hour of their Tuesday chatting with traffic engineers. The full release is below.

{early design by MVVA}

{first public revision by MVVA following selection as project designer}

MVVA 2012
{most recent revision made public by project organizers}

MVVA 2012
{most recent revision made public by project organizers}

{image above represents most current design of “lid” and street closures for Arch project}

what I-70_2
{a view of the expansive I-70 infrastructure separating the city from the Arch grounds and riverfront}

City to River boulevard site plan
{the City to River vision of a “lid” and boulevard working together – newly developable land shown in orange}

Pine Street I-70 pedestrian crossing
{Pine Street crossing Memorial Drive and I-70 at the Arch grounds}

Cincinnati Interstate pedestrian crossing
{Main Street crossing, 2nd & 3rd streets and I-71 in Cincinnati, OH}

MoDOT St. Louis District Press Releases Page

Prepared by Andrew Gates 314/453-1808

April 02, 2012
MoDOT to hold public meeting on Park over the Highway alternatives
ST. LOUIS – The Missouri Department of Transportation will hold an open-house style public meeting to allow the public to discuss MoDOT’s portion of the CityArchRiver 2015 project.

The public meeting is scheduled April 10, between 3 and 5 p.m. in the St. Louis City Hall Board of Aldermen boardroom (on the second floor), 1200 Market Street, St. Louis, Missouri, 63103.

During the meeting, MoDOT engineers will be on hand to discuss several proposed alternatives for the Park over the Highway portion of the CAR2015 project, to include what the department believes is the preferred alternative. Engineers will also be able to discuss potential impacts of each alternative.

This meeting will allow the public to provide input, and comments, either directly to the engineers or in written comments, on the alternatives presented. This meeting is part of the process to complete necessary Federal requirements for the project.

Since there are no formal presentations during the public meeting, participants may attend at any time during the open house.