St. Louis Takes the First Step Toward Highway-cide

The big news out of St. Louis over the past year has been the city’s plans to redesign the park that houses its signature Gateway Arch.

St. Louis has taken the first step to tearing down a portion of I-70 -- the main barrier to its Gateway Arch park. Photo: NextSTL

And the most exciting aspect is the potential elimination of a portion of urban highway that restricts pedestrian access between downtown St. Louis and this riverfront landmark.

Today Network blogger Alex Ihnen at NextSTL brings us the good news: City leaders are poised to invest $90,000 in a study that would examine the impacts of tearing down a elevated portion of I-70 that borders the park — about 1.4 miles of 1960s-era highway infrastructure.

Ihnen is thrilled with the news:

The proposed conversion of 1-mile of I-70 separating the city from its historic riverfront and iconic Arch [advances the idea] from urbanist dream to planning possibility.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board strongly supported the removal of I-70 downtown. City to River solicited endorsements to study highway removal from downtown stakeholders and received overwhelming support from the St. Louis Convention and Visitor’s Commission, hotel owners, business associations and the public. The organization lobbied the competition design teams to include highway removal as an option. In the end, each of the final five design teams concluded that the preferred design solution would be the removal of I-70. Development Strategies, a real estate, community and economic development consultant firm estimated that removing I-70 and replacing it with an urban boulevard would created more than $1.1B in new development opportunities for the city.

Now, the study of removing a portion of I-70 in downtown St. Louis is an official component of a sought-after Riverfront Connection Plan as part of a larger St. Louis Regional Sustainable Communities Plan, managed by EWG. It’s currently only one of many components in a just released RFP, but this step represents the most important step forward to-date in considering the conversion of I-70 to an urban boulevard. As Tim Logan wrote in his Post-Dispatch online report, “these things don’t happen without lots of study, so this is a first step. And that’s the only way to start getting anyplace.”

Elsewhere on the Network today: Copenhagenize reports on Denmark’s efforts to rein in truckers after the death of a young cyclist. Reinventing Parking writes that much of the developing world is poised to repeat America’s parking policy mistakes. And BikeWalkLee carries a succinct summary of recent Congressional action on the transportation reauthorization process.