Kingshighway and Forest Park Parkway Set to Become At-Grade Intersection

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If all goes according to plan, Forest Park Parkway and Kingshighway will be an at-grade intersection in a year and a half. The sunken Forest Park Parkway will be raised to the level of Kingshighway, creating a four-way signalized intersection. The design and approval process has been working its way through the Forest Park planning process for more than a year. Final approval is expected in June of next year.

The $10M project will be funded by $7.5M from BJC Healthcare and $2.5M from On-System Bridge Program (BRM) and Surface Transportation Program (STP) federal funds. The transformation is part of the BJC and Washington University Medical Center Campus Renewal Program.

BJC/WUSM campus renewal{rendering of new St. Louis Children’s Hospital, currently under construction as part of the medical campus renewal project – Kingshighway/Forest Park Parkway intersection at bottom-left}

The purpose of the project is to provide functional access and circulation at the medical center. The current design allows only a right turn onto Kingshighway from eastbound Forest Park Parkway. A left turn into the medical campus requires merging across three traffic lanes. Westbound Forest Park Parkway cannot be accessed from Kingshighway. This results in northbound Kingshighway traffic being unable to access westbound Forest Park Parkway. Westbound traffic can enter Forest Park Parkway one block east at Euclid Avenue. Two one-way, one lane access streets run alongside the sunken parkway.

Eastbound Forest Park Parkway traffic is pushed to Euclid Avenue, a smaller two-lane neighborhood commercial street one block east. Northbound Kingshighway traffic wishing to travel west bypasses the parkway and turns left onto West Pine Boulevard, which cuts off a corner of Forest Park, then left onto Lindell Boulevard. Southbound Kingshighway traffic likewise must turn onto Lindell to go west, or continue south to I-64.

Beyond creating limited and confusing traffic movements, the arrangement has created a dead streetscape. The block from Kingshighway to Euclid is uninviting and inhospitable to cyclists and pedestrians. What is a significant intersection of a major city avenue with the more than 1,300 acres of Forest Park, has been something of an anonymous wasteland.

An at-grade intersection will better connect the Central West End neighborhood and medical campus to Forest Park, erasing a suburban form in the middle of the city and reclaiming an urban block. Drivers will now arrive at the medical center, Central West End, and city at Kingshighway. All users will have a recognizable and understood urban form to navigate.

FP7{Forest Park Parkway looking west toward Kingshighway}

FP10{looking north on Kingshighway across Forest Park Parkway}

The project envisions a new multi-use path, similar to existing paths in Forest Park, weaving under the parkway immediately west of Kingshighway. The path would allow users to bypass crossing the parkway on the west side, and would align with Laclede Avenue to the north, and Parkview Place to the south.

While providing better and more clear access to pedestrians and cyclists, plans show nine traffic lanes on Kingshighway. North and south bound traffic would have two left turn lanes, three through lanes and one right turn lane. Forest Park Parkway westbound shows two left turn lanes, two through lanes and one right turn lane. Eastbound shows the same, but with one left turn lane.

The existing infrastructure is clearly crumbling. Construction on the Forest Park Parkway began in 1959. Eventually it would cobble together past streetcar right-of way, heavy rail right-of-way, existing streets, and cut a path through the Mill Creek Valley to connect Market Street in downtown St. Louis with suburban Clayton. An inspection of the parkway’s bridge over MetroLink in the park found it to be structurally deficient.

FP11{looking east on Forest Park Parkway toward Kingshighway}

FP9{looking east on Forest Park Parkway underneath Kingshighway}

Before 1959, Forest Park Avenue terminated at Kingshighway. Vehicles could enter Forest Park on Clayton Avenue to the south, and West Pine Avenue to the north. Both entrances exist today. The parkway didn’t exist east of Skinker Boulevard at the west end of Forest Park either.

The corridor’s first development was as a heavy rail line prior to 1900, part of the Wabash and Rock Island systems. At the time, streetcar lines ran on parallel streets such as Pershing Avenue. Later, streetcar lines would replace the heavy rail. They would be retired, Forest Park Parkway built, and eventually see rail transit return with the current MetroLink Red and Blue Lines.

The parkway followed this heavy rail line through the park in 1959, deviating just west of Kingshighway near Round Lake, crossing over the rail line to connect with Forest Park Avenue. The project was part of a much larger urban renewal effort in St. Louis which saw the expansion of Interstate highways through the city, the wholesale demolition of the Mill Creek Valley, and priority given to automobile infrastructure.

FP1{streetcar line looking west from Des Peres Avenue at what is today Forest Park Parkway – 1957}

FP6{streetcar line looking east from Des Peres Avenue at what is today Forest Park Parkway – 1957}

FP5{a new Forest Park Parkway emerges from under Kingshighway (top) – c. 1974}

Slowly, St. Louis is beginning to correct some of these mistakes. The intersection of Skinker and Clayton (and McCausland and Oakland) at the southwest corner of Forest Park was recently remade. While the result is basic, the project brought pedestrian crosswalks to the intersection for the first time in half a century. The New I-64 replaced the expansive suburban cloverleaf at Kingshighway with a much more compact single-point interchange.

Forest Park Avenue remains an awkward urban renewal legacy further east at it ducks under Grand Boulevard and weaves and winds its way to connect with Market Street and I-64. Bringing that intersection to-grade is on the city’s radar as well, awaiting funding. Support from BJC triggered to remake at Kingshighway now.

The 1995 Forest Park Master Plan included consideration of an at-grade intersection at Kingshighway, calling for a redesigned intersection to facilitate better access to the park and parkway for vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. The recommendation was part of a larger vision to improve the eastern edge of the park.

The BJC/WUSM Campus Renewal Program is an investment of more than $1B in new facilities and infrastructure across the more than 150-acre medical campus. Projects completed or underway include an expansion of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the McKinley Avenue Research Building, a new health and safety facility, additional parking, a new BJC headquarters and outpatient clinic, and a 500K sf office building adjacent to the Central West End MetroLink station. Next up will be the demolition and replacement of Queeny Tower, as well as other projects. (And of course there’s a whole lot more happening in the central corridor.)

FP8{plate from 1875 Pictorial St. Louis shows rail alignment through Forest Park – today’s MetroLink Red Line}

FP44{view from Washington University looking northeast – heavy rail line is today’s Forest Park Parkway/MetroLink Blue Line}

FP2{Forest Park and Central West End looking east c. 1915 – West Pine top-left, rail alignment center}

FP3{today’s Forest Park Parkway and MetroLink follow an original heavy rail line closely, only diverging as they reach the east end of Forest Park}

slide 2{aerial view of existing Kingshighway/Forest Park Parkway intersection}

Slide 1{proposed at-grade Kingshighway/Forest Park Parkway intersection}

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  • Dennis Ayden

    The logic of this proposal is badly flawed. Many residents of the CWE oppose this plan, as do many businesses that would be negatively impacted, There should be a public hearing.

    • Justin

      I’m curious to hear which businesses you think will be negatively impacted by this?

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  • David Hoffman

    I wish the city would deal with the intersection of Forest Park Parkway and Grand Blvd. It is in terrible disrepair. Especially the underpass. Curbs are non-existent in some spots. Concrete is worn away on the bridge. The pavement is awful.

    • Alex Ihnen

      They are, or will. Projects with a financial partner seem to be completed first. I wonder if SLU would help with that one.

  • Matt B

    About damn time…

  • Steve Kluth

    Why isn’t a pedestrian/bicycle tunnel under Kingshighway in the plans? A tunnel along with a bridge over the MetroLink (or even an at-grade crossing) would really improve access to Forest Park for the Central West End. Also, the right-turn curve from EB Forest Park Parkway to SB Kingshighway needs to go.

  • Phil Skroska

    The photo captioned “a new Forest Park Parkway emerges from under Kingshighway (top) – c. 1960” is really circa 1974. Jewish Hospital’s Shoenberg Pavilion, centered in the photo, didn’t exist in the 1960s. Just keepin’ it real.

  • Alex Ihnen

    There seems to be a lot of traffic fear here. A big scary intersection will be just fine. And the current situation kills a city block, and limits connectivity – one of those urban traits that should be encouraged and defended. Glad to see this happening.

    • gmichaud

      Except no one is going to want to use the “scary intersection”, Nor do I see how it kills a city block. Maybe Jaywalking is not possible, but with the amount of traffic that is probably a good thing.
      I just find it hard to believe this is anywhere near the best solution for anything but the automobile. The goal should be to reduce traffic not encourage more traffic.
      The are already very few pedestrians and bicycles that use Forest Park Parkway due to the hostile environment. I don’t think another heavily car orientated solution is going to change that.
      There are definitely other potential urban design solutions that don’t hand everything over to the automobile.

      • Alex Ihnen

        I’d suggest that the existing buildings don’t interact with the street in an inviting way because the street itself was a highway ramp. There’s nothing more car-oriented that an underpass in the middle of the city. I just find it interesting that comments range from this being terrible for cars and disrupting traffic flow, to this increasing traffic and being worse for pedestrians. An intersection with traffic movements that are comment – more easily understood and anticipated – and with pedestrian refuges (yes, silly they are needed and called that) is much better that what exists. BTW – I’m horrified every time I see a cyclist on FP Parkway – that’s insane! I keep thinking they must be lost.

        • gmichaud

          I am in this area a fair amount, I think all of this is a symptom of a larger problem.
          There have been many interesting comments.
          You rightly point out bicycles are not in the mix along Forest Park Expressway.
          I am somewhat familiar with Helsinki, Finland. They host many architectural and urban design competitions to find solutions. They may not do one as small as this intersection (but maybe so, 13 million isn’t chump change).
          Instead the whole Forest Park corridor (and probably Kingshighway) would be likely the subject of a competition.
          I won’t get into any detail, but as you have pointed out previously the Ikea store on the Forest Park Expressway is a suburban layout in an urban environment
          Urban planning inconsistency is highlighted by looking catty-corner from Ikea to the apartment building just built in a very urban fashion. It hugs the street corner and gives apartment dwellers immediate access to walking and transit.

          I just drove down the Expressway today. The aesthetic dominance of the automobile is evident. However, many buildings still stand in an urban form, most from previous generations.
          The thinking at city hall does not seem to be guided by any larger strategies that might be generated by an architectural competition, This type of urban planning inconsistency is evident all over town and the rest of the region is even worse.

          I generally agree with the idea of grids and the absence of under and overpasses. However I don’t think this project is a win for pedestrians or bicyclists.
          it probably isn’t a win for city planning either depending on future plans for development along both the Kingshighway and Forest Park corridors.
          Generally speaking there is a lack of cohesion from one project to the next and then to existing environments.
          This in part comes from ignoring transit planning as a part of the pedestrian experience. Just look at this project, the budget for transit enhancements appears to be zero. Almost all of the money goes towards placating the car culture.

    • Adam

      i don’t think it’s going to be any worse or any more scary, i just don’t think it’s going to be particularly better for pedestrians than the current situation. what kills the block there, IMO, is not the current road configuration but the fact that there’s nothing at that intersection but big institutional buildings and the edge of the park—not much to generate foot traffic in the first place. maybe this new configuration will lead to some pedestrian-scaled development on the NE corner of the intersection…

  • David Hoffman

    SLU should get involved with improving the intersection at FPP and Grand in the middle of its campus. It’s in terrible disrepair.

  • gmichaud

    I have mixed feelings about this. I’m trying to figure out how bringing more pedestrians in contact with more cars is a good thing. From what I can see the new plan is hardly any more pedestrian friendly than now.
    No doubt pedestrian access to the park from Kingshighway can be improved, and it looks like they have tried to move the pedestrian crossings north and south of the interchange.
    I couldn’t blow up the drawing and read them, but the other thing the rail is still there creating another barrier in the area for pedestrians, plus apparently the exit ramp from Forest Park expressway remains also.
    The entire money might be better spent humanizing the whole Kingshighway/park interface rather than moving the Forest Park Expressway.
    Ultimately a streetcar down the middle of Kingshighway would help make the streetscape more people friendly, but of course that requires a transit system that would allow people to leave their cars at home to be feasible.
    Another thought, I wonder if moving the currently buried and hidden CWE Metro Station out and form a plaza along Kingshighway somehow might work. A transit plaza could be a good humanizing tool. A monster traffic intersection, not so much.
    I’m just not sure I see a clear pedestrian benefit from this project. Most of the money will be spent on filling up holes. (and spent on cars as per usual).

    I just don’t see much of a gain here.

    • Adam

      I kinda have to agree with you. Kingshighway may as well be an interstate. I don’t see the pedestrian experience being improved by anything short of reducing the speed limit and the number of lanes. And the pedestrian wasteland that is the Kingshighway / Highway 64 intersection pretty much ensures that’s never going to happen.

    • rgbose

      I think the plan calls for getting rid of the on ramp. While it doesn’t have a big x over it, it’s definitely not drawn as the rest of the intersection is. I think it’s just left over from the satellite image.

    • Guest

      Yep…I agree. All the traffic moving to continue on FP Expressway, if this plan comes to fruition, now encounters a big intersection along with those whose destination was a right or left turn on Kingshighway. Doesn’t make sense to me. What makes more sense to me is keep the underpass and put in a nice very wide sidewalk (attractively landscaped perhaps with kiosks or other interesting features) on the west side of Kingshighway all along the park, allowing pedestrians a free and clear walk (avoiding what I see as a pedestrian’s nightmare). This would also allow attractive and inviting access to the Park.
      I’m no expert…but does that make sense?

      • rgbose

        Isn’t part of the issue that the bridge is falling apart and this is cheaper?

        It’d be impossible to overcome the unpleasantness of walking along Kinghighway, iMO.

        They should plan to add a crossing over the tracks to the south of FPP to provide a path to Steinberg.

      • gmichaud

        Great ideas. Really, they could generate interesting results. But that is the point also, how was this vetted? There seems to be so many other solutions to discuss that it is odd to hear about it after it is a done deal.
        Almost all of the money is spent on traffic.
        If, as another comment suggests, if the whole overpass needs replacing, then it should come out of regular maintenance or capital budgets, not posing as a project for pedestrian enhancements.
        This is why government is not trusted. It is a world of giving contracts to the usual insiders,. Meeting true needs of people and the city are ignored or considered to be marginal concerns.
        It too shows how oblivious the federal government is to urban planning principles to have approved funds for this project.
        I understand the debate is over, the usual suspects get their way. However Guest brings up some good points and I wonder what would truly be better for pedestrians. I hardly think that answer would be a mega intersection, infected by automobiles.
        Finally, the purpose of this project is clearly making everything easier for cars, that is the focus. In addition to minimal concerns for pedestrians there is no mention of transit and its role. Which, if we are watching global warming, should supersede the automobile in the near future. Certainly transit should be a major part of planning considerations at any major interchange like this, but apparently it is not.
        All of this charade is why St. Louis is losing population, it is a city being designed for automobiles, not people.

  • Sh0rtbus

    Looks great! Sadly tho, like the rest of the city, the lights will be timed so that it will be just another cluster fuck intersection…

  • TimJim

    Looks good for people who live and work in the neighborhood, not so good for drivers using FPP as an east-west alternative to Highway 40. Now will have potentially long stop at Kingshxghway and later, maybe, Grand.

    • moorlander

      A step in the right directly. Much better than the reverse.

    • jhoff1257

      “Looks good for people who live and work in the neighborhood…”

      Exactly, and those are the only people that really matter at the end of the day. Neighborhoods should be developed for the people that live and work in them. Not for those just merely passing though. If just one stoplight is going to doom your commute (it won’t) then find an alternate route. Or the even better choice, park in Brentwood or Clayton and ride MetroLink, it runs in damn near the same alignment.

      • TimJim

        Like it or not, the parkway has been an important connector between downtown/midtown and Clayton/I-170. Slowing traffic down on it will have consequences, and not just for commuters. That impact may may be minimal and the benefits will be worth it — I just hope the big picture has been considered.

        • matimal

          Why would someone not like the parkway having been an important connector between downtown/midtown and Clayton/I-170?

          • Alex Ihnen

            Has it been an important connector? If so, who has benefited? What, realistically, is the possible effect of having a regular four-way intersection one block west of all the existing four-way intersections? What effect will more clear, easier, access to the medical center, Central West End, and Forest Park have?

          • matimal

            Exactly. St. Louis is encrusted with expressways and you can get from anywhere to anywhere at anytime with almost no delay. That, ironically, is St. Louis’ problem. It has massively overbuilt expressways that lead to massive inefficiencies. Cutting off access is the very last of St. Louis’ concerns.

          • Adam

            Encrusted? I like it. 🙂

  • Imran

    This could increase the likelihood of development for the small parking lot on the northeast corner of Kingshwy and FPP. You know, put parking below grade etc

  • kjohnson04

    I’m a little concerned about how daunting this will be for pedestrians. That’s a lot of tarmac to cross on foot.
    I do, however like the bike underpass just west of Kingshighway.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Yes, the proposed design is better though, with at least pedestrian refuge islands mid-crossing. The crosswalks today at West Pine/Kingshighway are heavily used, but very poorly designed and not designed with anyone outside a car in mind.

      And I wonder who the user of the multi-use path would be. Using it avoids using the crosswalk, but only for people using the sidewalk along Kingshighway, which seems lightly used. I think/hope that the plan to eventually extend the multi-use path along the eastern boundary of the park – something mentioned in the FP master plan.

      • kjohnson04

        Agreed. That’s one of the nagging problems here with public parks. Very few of them have pathways along the periphery. Many routes through, however. Tower Grove Park is better that average in many respects, with pathway of sorts on the Arsenal side, but none on the Magnolia side.

      • rgbose

        Hope they tie the path into the rest of the park. I see a burn line already from Laclede to the path to the northwest.

        • STLEnginerd

          And a better ADA compliant connection from the east end of the park to the trail network is kind of over due. The pedestrian bridge and the stair pathway from parkveiw are nearly inaccessible to wheel chairs and strollers. I’d think this would be an opportunity to correct that.

  • bobby

    i live in this neighborhood at well although I like the idea of being able to walk across the street to the park I am concerned about this intersection being able to handle the car traffic as it already gets pretty backed up with just the north south traffic on kingshighway

    • Any time I hear a complaint about traffic jams and back-up in St. Louis, I reserve the right to exclaim “tough cookies!” because, really, in any other major city we’d just call it traffic.

      • I want to take every Saint Louisan on a field trip to Boston so they can see what a back up is.

        • Tim E

          Our come to my new world in the Bay Area. I fantasize about the days when I took my wife to work from Shrewsbury to ATT one center downtown. Today, A good day for me is now an hour one way and I’m fortunate to afford to live closer. Commutes are getting insane out here if your job is not within reach of BART or CALTRAIN
          .
          Not to make light of someone’s traffic situation but I would take St. Louis traffic any day based on my experience of living in the Chicago area before St Louis and now the Bay Area as well as a fair share of projects in such metro areas as New York City, South Florida/Miami, etc. St. Louis might have underwhelming transit but it simply hands down has a lot of lane miles and street miles relative to population density and GDP. ..

        • Chicagoan

          I shudder at the thought of navigating Chicago traffic again (I don’t have a car anymore).

        • lili

          But, this isn’t Boston. 🙂

  • markgroth

    Those vintage streetcar line photos were good finds, great post.

    • kjohnson04

      I know. I love those.

    • ParallelParker

      My grandparent’s apartment building on Pershing backed up to the streetcar line in the westbound shot. In the 1950s my siblings and cousins and I flatted many pennies by laying them on the tracks and waiting for the streetcars to run over them.

  • Presbyterian

    I live in the neighborhood and really welcome this project. The current configuration makes for a less safe pedestrian crossing at Euclid, now limited to just one crosswalk. An interchange in the middle of a city block might have made sense in 1959, but I look forward to a simple intersection in the future. Good news!

  • SnakePlissken

    Now when will we see an updated N. Grand/Forest Park Pkwy. intersection? It amazes me how inadequate it is. Drivers always stopping in the middle of the intersection!

    • Alex Ihnen

      It’s coming, but there’s no timeline.

      • Josiah

        Makes you wonder how far off this would have been without BJC. Glad they’re stepping up and realize the current interchange doesn’t help the campus or residents nearby

      • Daron

        Then after that, let’s heal the Forest Park to Market madness. This is huge news man.

        • Alex Ihnen

          And then the 21st Street interchange.

          • Tim E

            Ideally, SLU would do the same for Grand Ave/Forest Parkway as BJC/Wash U has been and is doing around its campus while a new 21st street/interchange is funded or goes forward in part with a signature tower/anchor tenant bookending the west end of the Gateway Mall.
            .
            I think it is a no-brainer for SLU but I don’t have the purse strings or audience to convince them to do the same. Heck, I think they should help fund and expand Grand Bus service or be leading a push for Grand Ave BRT and or N-S streetcar.. .

  • Justin

    Is there an expected completion date yet?

    • Alex Ihnen

      “If all goes according to plan, Forest Park Parkway and Kingshighway will be an at-grade intersection in a year and a half.” Planned completion date of summer 2017.