MoDOT Presents Gravois Plan at Open House (and online)

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Tonight the Missouri Department of Transportation is holding an open house to share its latest plans for Gravois Avenue through the City of St. Louis. Back in April of last year we reported plans to vacate portions of 16 streets along the city’s major south side arterial road. The project is now moving ahead with no street closures as a result of resident feedback [provide feedback to MoDOT online].

While much of the project is planned, feedback is needed on striping and signals, including bicycle lanes, proposed road diet, and more. Below is an image of the entire Gravois plan, from River Des Peres at the southern border of the city to I-44 just south of downtown. You can scroll down the image to view project details.

So what’s in the plan, and what feedback would we offer?

Gravois will be resurfaced from the city limits to I-44. Signals at many intersections (see list below) will be replaced. A road diet (lane reduction) would occur from Christy to Chippewa, where the street would go from four traffic lanes to three including a center turn lane. Lanes would be reduced from Jefferson to I-55 as well, where the configuration would go from six traffic lanes to four and a center turn lane. This means that the current Chippewa to Jefferson lane configuration would remain as-is.

Along Gravois, lane widths would be standardized to 10′ for traffic and turn lanes. Parking would be 7′ along the corridor, and bike lanes would be 6′.

Gravois - Christy to Chippewa{Christy to Chippewa – parking/bike/traffic/turn lane}

Gravois - Chippewa to Jefferson{Chippewa to Jefferson – parking/traffic/traffic}

Gravois - Jefferson to I-44{Jefferson to I-44 – parking/bike/traffic/traffic/turn lane}

Most, nearly all, intersections are getting property piano key crosswalks (below), more prominent than the current single stripes used now. Bike lanes are added, but crucially absent from Chippewa to Grand, leaving a bit of a question as to where cyclists will go. Plans show the bike lane at the north project terminus continuing through the I-44 interchange mess. Here, cyclists should be directed onto Russell to Broadway where existing bike lanes exist, instead of continuing north across possibly to the least hospitable cycling road in the city.

Options will be presented for Jefferson and Christy. The choice in both cases is a between 10′ traffic lanes with 6′ bike lanes and 7′ parking lanes, or additional traffic lanes with bike “sharrows” (which are stupid, ridiculous, and dangerous). This is the choice between road diets, slowing traffic, and providing some space for different users and modes of transportation, and just repaving Gravois. MoDOT favors Option 1 in both cases.

Jefferson option 1 Jefferson option 2 Christy option 1 Christy option 2

From MoDOT:

Gravois Avenue striping and signals project

What is the situation?
In 2016, MoDOT has set aside funding to update signals along Route 30 (Gravois Avenue) and resurface the roadway to repair and rejuvenate the failing pavement. During the resurfacing and signal work, the department has the opportunity to make changes to the roadway striping and signals to better meet the needs of both residents and commuters along Gravois in the city. In addition, residents have expressed concern about vehicles traveling at excessive speeds along sections of Gravois, and requested a more inviting and safe environment for pedestrians and bicycles.

[MoDOT Route 30/Gravois Avenue project fact sheet]

What is the current plan?
MoDOT will upgrade lighting and signals along Gravois at several intersections: Morgan Ford Road, Arsenal Street, Chippewa Street and Kingshighway Boulevard, Cherokee/Tennessee, Utah/Louisiana, Compton/Wyoming, Ohio/Lynch, California, Shenandoah/McNair, Russell and 12th/Geyer. MoDOT will also make pavement repairs and resurface Gravois between the city limits and I-44/Tucker. Since MoDOT is putting a new surface on the roadway, the department is also recommending reducing the number of lanes on two sections of Gravois – between Christy and Chippewa, and between Jefferson and I-55. The new striping plan would include bicycle lanes along parts of Gravois, to meet the Bike St. Louis plan and the city’s sustainability goals. Another option is to leave the striping as it is, but that would not address safety improvements, no accessibility for bicycles or pedestrians.

What are MoDOT’s responsibilities on Gravois?
MoDOT has a maintenance agreement with the city of St. Louis for roads within the city limits. MoDOT is responsible for signals, signs, striping, sweeping and pavement maintenance on Gravois. St. Louis City retains ownership and responsibility for everything else.

Will any roadways be closed?
Early on, engineers proposed closing some access along Gravois to reduce the number of roads at intersections. There will be no roadways closed as part of the current plans for Gravois Avenue.

Why will a road diet help?
Along Gravois, MoDOT has looked at the traffic volumes and speeds and determined a road diet would be effective in two places:
Between Christy and Chippewa, where the roadway would go from four lanes to three lanes, and
Between Jefferson and I-55, where the roadway would be reduced from six lanes to five lanes.
MoDOT has studied the area and believes a road diet will lower traffic speeds and will increase the accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians.

[MoDOT Road diet brochure]

Will Metro busses block the roadway in the areas with three lanes?
They shouldn’t. Bus stops are identified. Bus stops are signed as no parking zones.

Can more be done?
There has been continuing discussion with the Greater Gravois Initiative and the City of St. Louis for further improvements along Gravois. MoDOT has no funding identified for further work along Gravois in the city for the foreseeable future.
Gravois tall

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  • The Louminator

    It is such a challenge for the city of STL, and MODOT to adapt to the reality that our street network was planned and constructed for a time of GM and moving cars… fast as possible. Publishing the total length of the concept is appreciated.

  • jhoff1257

    I really think Gravois could be something special in the future. This is really the first time I’ve seen a close continuous satellite view of Gravois the length of the city. There is still some great stretches of urban setbacks and historic buildings. A few ugly strip malls, parking lots and fast-food restaurants, but some nice infill could make Gravois one hell of a street in my opinion. This is the first step.

  • Greg

    What happened to the curb bulbouts that were proposed at a number of intersections?

    • Alex Ihnen

      Not sure how much the plan has changed. They’re hard to see, but I believe that curbs are extended at Grand, Chippewa, Gustine, Cherokee, and Shenandoah.

  • stef

    I’m really bummed that there’s “no money” to upgrade the signals that are simply on timers (instead of sensors) such as: Taft, Spring, Hydraulic, etc.

    It also appears that the people who put this together don’t actually DRIVE the Gravois route during (or not during) rush hour.

  • Mark Anderson

    I for one am grateful for no street closures. Moving here from Kansas City where Highway 71 ran through parts of the city and streets were closed, it basically cut off neighbors and neighborhoods. Thanks MODOT for listening to the citizens.

    • Adam

      Welcome to St. Louis, Mark! We have plenty of that (highways dissecting neighborhoods) here in STL as well, unfortunately. At least this Gravois project won’t be exacerbating the problem.

    • choo

      I agree, i believe the first concept of this project had several street closures. My wife an I both complained to MODOT that the project was il-conceived. I still do not think it is quite there. One of the biggest issues with gravois is the vast distances of pavement. this allows vehicular traffic to exceed speed limits 10-20mph (sometimes more – as I watched a car blow the Gravois-Russel stop light, blow a tire, and proceed to slide for about 200′). Gravois needs curb bump-outs and well designed medians to make a real change. otherwise it will always be a neighborhood border instead of great St. Louis corridor.

  • Any guesses on why they didn’t extend the bike lanes along the whole length? My guess is opposition from the businesses in that stretch (especially Schnucks, whose management is very regressive), but I really don’t know.

    • Alex Ihnen

      MoDOT has said that traffic counts along that stretch preclude reducing the number of traffic lanes. If we continue to treat vehicle traffic as a math problem, we’ll continue to get crappy places for people.

      • matimal

        Is the answer removing more roads from MoDOT control? Should there be a devolution of transportation planning from the state to counties and municipalities?

        • Alex Ihnen

          That would be ideal, other than the added cost to the city. I know Manchester in The Grove lost some on-street parking spaces and faced other challenges because it’s a state route – which dictates components of the design.

          • matimal

            Removing state imposition of design standards is one thing, but removing the ability of the state to bring the money and letting cities and counties to control the money would make a bigger difference.

          • tbatts666

            We do smarter stuff when we have to foot the bill right?

  • Mathew Chandler

    Speeds on Gravois are and will remain constant and intense compared to a bicycle/pedestrian. Put the parking closer to the traffic movement and the bike lane closer to the side walk (flippity flop, dutch style) Less car doors opening up on you while your riding and an added barrier. Though I do see this plan wouldn’t allow that because the bike lane merges with traffic and becomes a shared lane at times. its 2016 all progressive cities are doing everything they can to cater to multi modal transportation. Globally, everything is becoming about sustainability and equality. The road diet, cross walks, ped islands are a good step toward walkability and cater to multi-modal options. This will be necessary if Gravois is to become a thriving corridor.

    • Alex Ihnen

      Nice comment, I hope you offer this feedback to MoDOT.

      • Mathew Chandler

        Feedback shared via link you provided in paragraph one. Will not be able to attend meeting tonight due to another neighborhood meeting. I hope updates will be posted here.

    • BJ Kraiberg

      I was unable to attend last night, but I sent feedback online suggesting parking protected bike lanes, with Chestnut Street downtown as an example. I really hope they consider this. Please forward your comments too!

      • RyleyinSTL

        Parking protected lanes, this would be great! Do we know why the city doesn’t seem to favor it?

        Many of the cities official bike lanes exist on streets that I just don’t ever consider using due to traffic speeds and general driver ineptitude (Chippewa from Gravois to Watson for example). A painted line on Gravois is basically useless in my mind, I’ll avoid it.

        Lucky for us the city has a generally intact street grid which makes it pretty easy to avoid busy routes when biking.

        • Alex Ihnen

          In this case it’s not the city, it’s MoDOT. They haven’t done them before and they do not want to start with this project.

          • stef

            Agree with MoDOT’s reluctance to consider new things… I even gave MoDOT a source for striping paint that is visible in the rain AND in the rain AT NIGHT – which is used in Europe. The response: we have snow/ice and snowplows, so it won’t work here. Because clearly, it never snows in Europe and they don’t have snowplows… LOL

          • RyleyinSTL

            SO MUCH THIS!! The city should be using it as well. This paint is basically used world wide including other States and Canadian Provinces I’ve lived in (which see heavy snow plow use). Plus it snows like 4 days a year in STL….get over yourselves MoDOT! At night and in the rain the lines reflect back light from your headlights making them look lit-up. My wife and I always lament about the lack of it around here when driving around in the rain.

            From what I’ve read, MoDOT used to be at the forefront of roadway technology back in the day, sad to see how far they have fallen.

        • Catherine

          Alex is correct! The Greater Gravois Initiative suggested parking protected bike-lanes for the entire stretch. City Streets were excited about the idea (though they had concerns about street cleaning, etc.), but MODOT put an end to that discussion because they have never done them before and did not want to experiment (…though, parking protected bike lanes are not really an experimental tool at this point).

          • RyleyinSTL

            Are parking protected bike lanes some kind of rocket science or something? If MoDOT can build bridges and Interstates one could assume they’d have the ability to tackle bike lanes. No?

          • Catherine

            Certainly not. As I’m sure you know, they exist in many cities around the US (I’ve found that MODOT hates when we give them examples from Europe because “those aren’t applicable to the US”). Andddd, dealing with local routes is a new ballgame for them, let alone a pedestrian/bike friendly one. Sooo, I’ve been told they’re just not up for it right now. It’s a huge missed opportunity in my opinion. Ps, this is Catherine from NCS – I carpooled with Andy Oates 🙂

          • RyleyinSTL

            Unfortunately MoDot not being “up for it right now” is something us South Siders will have too live with for 2 generations.

      • Parking protected *bi-directional* bicycle lanes. That takes less space from the cars that will be complaining about the road diet.

  • SnakePlissken

    I escaped from New York and LA but I don’t think I’d survive a casual bike ride down Gravois.

    • jhoff1257

      Great reference!