Greater Gravois Initiative Produces Vision for A Better Gravois, Awaits MoDOT Plan

Gravois Avenue closures proposed - St. Louis, MO

This year something amazing happened in a corner of St. Louis City bisected by a state-managed arterial stroad. Residents spoke up about a plan to close segments of 16 city streets. But they didn’t just rant on social media, they organized, planned, and produced an alternative plan incorporating systematic public input.

Organized as the Greater Gravois Initiative, the group focused on the idea that Gravois Avenue is more than Missouri State Route 30 and a way to move traffic through their neighborhoods. The path is also a place, too often an uninviting place for any use other than driving.

A MoDOT plan to remake Gravois focused on removing perceived impediments to the free flow of traffic. This is typically labeled as an “improvement” without anyone pausing to ask “for whom”? The plan sought to close segments of 16 city streets to reduce the number of streets converging on intersections. Closing certain street segments would have decreased the number of traffic signals to replace, and therefore decrease the project’s cost.

Gravois Avenue closures proposed - St. Louis, MO

Our take in April was that any closures should require a deliberate and public process. This has been provided by the GGI effort. The initial public outcry at plan led to a delay in the project. A final plan by MoDOT is expected soon.

While the public process was not always as friendly and cordial as some may prefer, GGI and interested residents found a willing listener in both MoDOT and the City of St. Louis Streets Department. As a result of the collaborative effort, a better plan is set to emerge.

The detailed plan remains with MoDOT, but we’re optimistic that most streets will remain open, with closures only at specific small triangle sites. We expect lane reductions from six to four, and perhaps four to two, with a center turn lane, along parts of Gravois. Added bumpouts and other basic infrastructure is likely as a tool to slow traffic and provide safer space for other street users.

Gravois Avenue closures proposed - St. Louis, MO
{six lanes of traffic and 35mph speed limit is common through neighborhoods along Gravois}

Gravois has the potential to be a true multi-use path connecting many south side neighborhoods. Including protected bike lanes as part of the project, there’s plenty of room, would be a great statement by the department of transportation and city that all modes of transportation are valued. A city street that works for everyone is also one that attracts new development and is economically sustainable.

In the end, the GGI effort has incredibly effective at creating a forum for those who care about their neighborhoods and city to help plan its future. Almost regardless of the final plan, the process is set to produce results. There’s some consensus that a business district be created, and other issues such as safety and lighting be addressed.

Next up: get seven aldermen (6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 15th, 20th, 25th), the city, and the state’s DOT on board.

Below is the final Phase I planned produced by the grassroots public planning effort:

Phase I for a Greater Gravois
The Greater Gravois Initiative (GGI) is a grassroots movement of neighbors, businesses, and leaders seeking to improve walkability, bikeability, and transit access on Gravois. The public engagement process for making Gravois Great started in April of 2015 with a petition gathering support for a more bike and pedestrian friendly corridor. One hundred and ten people signed our change.org petition, 112 responded to an online survey, and 150 people attended public meetings where a community vision for the corridor was developed. Through these meetings, surveys, and conversations, a vision for the Gravois Corridor has developed.

The timing of these events have coincided with the Missouri Department of Transportation’s Gravois Improvement Project. GGI has developed the Community’s Vision for a Greater Gravois and offers a plan for Phase 1 of a multi-phased implementation process. The following is a description of the priorities from the Community’s Vision for a Greater Gravois and our conceptual plan that we hope influences the MODOT’s 2016 Gravois Improvement Project.

Five Priorities for the Greater Gravois Corridor

  1. Citizens want to see the speed of traffic reduced through new design elements: bump outs, narrowing lanes, and removing lanes for other uses (i.e. wider sidewalks, dedicated protected bike lanes, dedicated transit lanes). Round-a-bouts were seen as a long term solution for many of the intersections to allow for more turning movements at six point intersections at a slower speed.
  2. Improving safety is a big concern for everyone. Improved lighting, police patrols on foot or bike, and safer signalized crossings at intersections for pedestrians and bikes.
  3. There was agreement on the need to create a business district(s) or a special district(s) to watch over and implement the changes, brand the corridor, and work to develop more economic development along the corridor.
  4. Beautification was seen as a key component of improving the corridor. This could be accomplished through added greenspace, street trees, property maintenance, and public art, among other things.
  5. Groups did not want to see a wholesale closing of streets. There may be places where it makes sense (i.e. small triangles.), but citizens were hesitant to agree to wholesale closures.

Priorities for intersections along Gravois

City residents love the grid, connectivity, and interconnected neighborhoods. Based on community feedback, GGI found that closing off these connections is not popular. There was agreement that the diagonal layout of Gravois, along with it being wider than necessary for its use, makes for many dangerous intersections for vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. There were some instances that residents felt might make sense to close a road, namely, one side of the small “triangle” intersections. (A side note: The triangle intersections could be an opportune place for public art, neighborhood entrance features, additional green space, or could be given to adjacent landowners.)

Other proposals to close streets were not favored by residents. In almost all cases, residents wanted to see the distance that pedestrians needed to cross at intersections to be shortened by bump outs and/or pedestrian refuges. The MODOT proposed improvements for pedestrians were all well received and residents had suggestions for other places to see these improvements. The consensus at the meeting was that the vehicular travel speed along Gravois needs to be reduced by a change in design of the roadway.

As additional funds become available, below is a list of priority intersections for improvements such as curb extensions and pedestrian islands:

  1. Jefferson/Sidney/Gravois
  2. Grand/Gravois
  3. Arsenal/Pennsylvania/Gravois
  4. Gustine/Gravois
  5. Hydraulic/Gravois
  6. Wyoming/Compton/Gravois
  7. Spring/Gravois
  8. Cherokee/Tennessee/Gravois

Design Concepts
These priorities informed the Greater Gravois Initiatives’ cross sections or ‘streetmixes’ and intersection design concepts seen on the following pages covering the length of Gravois from Chippewa to Geyer (or the I-55 N ramp). The Greater Gravois Initiative would like to see the improvements for bicyclists and transit continue into downtown.

Future Steps
The coordination of details for implementation, maintenance, and finding additional funding for all the proposed designs will have to involve a special district that is yet to be formed. Exploration into the feasibility of this is ongoing.

Contact the Greater Gravois Initiative with further questions or comments: [email protected]

Chippewa to Grand

Notes for re-striping:

  • Adding shared lane markings in both outside lanes
  • There are several places shown for future curb extensions – in the interim, these extensions could be painted
  • Maintain on-street parking as is (other than few spots lost when bump-outs are installed)
  • Long-term plans include decreased street parking, a neighborhood greenway for bikers, widened sidewalks and narrowed lanes, and more efficient use of public transit

Relevant Alderman:

  • Shane Cohn (25th ward) – Chippewa/Gravois intersection
  • Megan Green (15th ward) – both sides of Gravois from Chippewa to Grand
  • Cara Spencer (20th ward) – Grand/Gravois intersection

Chippewa_Gravois

  • Larger pedestrian refuge triangle on northeast corner and add piano key crosswalks

Roger/Gravois – no change

Winnebago_Gravois

  • Right in/right out (currently there are no left turns from northbound Gravois from 4-6pm)
  • Add a pedestrian refuge island in the roadway for people crossing Winnebago
  • Have a study done for the best place to put a push-button for pedestrian crossings in this stretch

Gustine_Gravois

  • Maintain right turn only lane heading south on Gravois
  • Add a curbed pedestrian refuge triangle where the current striped one is painted
  • Add piano key striped crosswalks
  • Bump-out three corners
  • Note: In regards to drainage/sewers, this intersection is at a relatively high altitude compared to the Chippewa/Gravois and Spring/Gravois intersections which are both low-lying

Hydraulic_Gravois

  • add bump-outs on all four corners
  • add piano key crosswalks on both sides of the street, crossing Gravois
  • maintain additional turn lanes where road is wider

Bamberger_Gravois

  • Right turn only from northbound Bamberger onto Gravois (street is currently 1 way out)
  • Right in/Right out on Bamberger north of Gravois

Spring_Gravois

  • Bump out curbs on all corners and add piano key striping

Giles/Gravois – no change

Grand_Jefferson

Notes about Re-striping:

  • Add protected bike lanes beginning at Grand/Gravois and heading northeast – planters could be added as a buffer between parking lanes and bike lanes, in the interim, this area would be painted (cement parking stops should be used instead of metal bollards to keep cars out of the bike lane)
  • Eliminate 1 driving lane in each direction
  • There is 3ft of extra room in this street design which could be added to the bike lanes or parking lanes

Relevant Alderman:

  • Megan Green (15th ward) – Grand/Gravois intersection and west side of Gravois to Utah
  • Cara Spencer (20th ward) – Grand/Gravois intersection and east side of Gravois to Cherokee
  • Ken Ortmann (9th ward) – east side of Gravois from Cherokee to Russell
  • Steve Conway (8th ward) – west side of Gravois from Utah to Wyoming
  • Christine Ingrassia (6th ward) – west side of Gravois from Wyoming to Jefferson

Grand_Gravois

  • Vacate Miami west of Grand in front of the Southside National Bank building and reshape curb line to allow for right turns off of Gravois onto southbound Grand Blvd. – Note: this is in accordance with the Lawrence Group’s comprehensive plan for the area
  • Bump-out northwest and northeast corners to shorten pedestrian travel distance
  • Add piano key crosswalks
  • In the future, Grand Blvd. north and south of Gravois should be re-striped to one-lane in each direction to maintain consistency with streetscape north and south of this stretch

Potomac/Gravois – no change

Cherokee_Tennessee_Gravois

  • Add pedestrian signal to cross Gravois at Cherokee
  • Make Cherokee two-ways west of Gravois (Aldermanic issue)
  • Bump out northeast and southeast corners
  • Side note: MODOT could consider making Tennessee one-way to simplify this intersection

Mckean_Gravois

  • Right in/right out at McKean

Louisiana/Gravois (south) – no change

Utah_Louisiana_Virginia_Gravois

  • Vacate triangle on Louisiana northwest of Gravois
  • Vacate triangle on Virginia South of Gravois (allowing alley access)
  • Add piano key crosswalks

Wyoming_Compton_Gravois

  • Bump-out curb lines as shown above
  • Consider no left turns from Compton to simplify intersection
  • Add piano key crosswalks

Michigan_Juniata_Minnesota_Gravois

  • Vacate Juniata east of Gravois and Michigan west of Gravois

Pennsylvania_Arsenal_Gravois

  • Bump-out the curbs at marked locations to shorten the crosswalk distance for pedestrians
  • Add piano key crosswalks

Nebraska/Gravois – no change

Pestalozzi_Oregon_Gravois

  • Vacate Oregon west of Gravois (temporarily closed currently) and Pestalozzi east of Gravois

California_Gravois

  • Add piano key striping to existing crosswalks and signal

Magnolia/Iowa/Gravois – no change

Lynch_Ohio_Gravois

  • Vacate Lynch on both sides of Gravois (only to the alley on the southeast side)
  • Note: on the northwest side of the street both sides of Lynch are owned by the Archdiocese of St. Louis and they are in favor of vacating the street. The same is the case with the owner of both sides of Lynch, just southeast of Gravois. In this unique situation, all property owners with adjacent property are in favor of vacating the street.

Texas/Gravois – no change

Jefferson_Russell

Notes for re-striping:

  • Add protected bike lanes (continued from Grand to Jefferson section)
  • Narrow parking lanes to allow for small buffer between parked cars and bike lanes
  • Eliminate one lane in each direction and add center turn lane

Relevant Alderman:

  • Christine Ingrassia (6th ward) – Jefferson/Sidney/Gravois intersection
  • Ken Ortmann (9th ward) – Jefferson/Sidney/Gravois intersection and east side of Gravois to Russell
  • Jack Coatar (7th ward) – west side of Gravois to downtown

Sidney_Jefferson_Gravois

  • Maintain no left turns from all directions
  • Bump out corners where displayed
  • Add piano key crosswalks
  • Add 4 pedestrian pedestrian refuge islands like the one pictured below (Note: all four pedestrian islands pictured will go into the center lane – which are not used at this intersection)

Sidney_Jefferson_Gravois_example

Victor_Gravois

  • Right turn only from westbound Victor onto Gravois (no left turns from westbound Victor)

McNair_Shenandoah_Gravois

  • Add piano key striping at McNair across Gravois
  • Enlarge pedestrian island at Shenandoah

Selena/Gravois – no change

Mississippi/Gravois – no change

Lemp/Gravois – no change

Ann/Gravois – no change

Russell to 55

Notes for re-striping:

  • Add shared lane markings on both outside lanes
  • Add clear signage directing bikes heading north into downtown east down Russell to protected bike lane on Broadway – similarly, bikes coming west on Russell should be given a shared lane marking to make left onto southbound Gravois to enter protected bike lane
  • Maintain 3 lanes in each direction through 55 entrance
  • Long term plans include: wider sidewalks in this section, and future transit-only lanes

Relevant Alderman:

  • Ken Ortmann (9th ward) – Russell/Gravois intersection
  • Jack Coatar (7th ward) – Russell/Gravois intersection and both sides of Gravois into downtown

Russell_Gravois

  • Enlarge pedestrian refuge to cross Gravois
  • Add piano key crosswalks
  • Add bike signage to direct northbound bikes exiting protected bike lane to continue right to Russell into
    buffered bike lane (and continue downtown via Broadway buffered bike lane)
  • Add bike signage and share the road symbol to left-turn lane coming from westbound Russell to allow bikes to turn into protected bike lane going south on Gravois
  • Note: directing bikes to use Gravois→Russell→Broadway (and vice versa) creates a continuous protected bike route from Grand/Gravois into downtown

13th/Gravois – no change

Allen/Gravois – no change

55_Tucker_Gravois

  • Add piano key crosswalks