Monday, December 07, 2009

St. Louis gets a new center hall

I took a detour this morning to try out the new 64 and was impressed with the results. I entered the highway east bound at McCausland. McCausland had a lot of traffic and it surprised me that I was the only driver entering the highway. Everyone else continued north on McCausland toward Forest Park. The new 64 improvements will help them also as many of the highway interchanges are widened and improved.

In particular, the new interchange at 64/Hampton and the Zoo is beautiful. There's a roundabout by the Zoo which replaces the old bottleneck at Clayton at Hampton. It will be interesting to see how traffic flows there next summer.

Up on the new 64, drivers get a different look at St. Louis. Graceful embankments lead the eye up to landmarks of our area along both sides of the new roadway. The Highlands office development across from Forest Park looks much better in its new setting. As does the Central Institute for the Deaf and pretty much everything along both sides of the new highway. Quality infrastructure makes a powerful statement about the health of a region and the new I-64 sends a good message about St. Louis.

Highway 40 was the oldest highway in the St. Louis area. Many of our region's core assets line the route. It takes drivers through the heart of our region and it gives them an intimate view of what we have here. They're "in our house". While the "center hall" aspects of the new I-64 are back in place, the view from the roadway is impressive. Travellers on the new 64 will be reminded of many of the things that make St. Louis special.


Anonymous said...

Very surprised to hear an endorsement of the New I-64 here.

Anonymous said...

At least he didn't say "St. Louis gets a new back door!"

Matt M. said...


The new "center hall" is more like a fire wall. Point of connections are vastly outnumbered by points of purposeful division.

I know you know this. I also know that you're a fan of incremental, rational change. Visions, for you, need to be backed in political and economic realities. There needs to be a coalition to assemble for you to even consider discussing radical change--see the I-70 removal effort that you endorse.

Still, I have to throw in the downer-comment that this project, to me, was a waste and is typical of the cars-only stance of transportation planning in the St. Louis region.

Bold proposals to rework interstate systems abound across the country now. St. Louis could truly have made a name for itself as a region that put its center hall to a use that would have provided wider benefits than to the solo-driver, in most cases.

I know, I know--why wasn't there a network built up to propose bold ideas when the idea to rebuild the interstate presented itself? I can't answer that except to say that I feel many in the region are preoccupied with other region-wide or city-wide issues and have to choose their battles wisely.

Yet a true benefit to the region would have been to not simply rebuild I-64/40, but to:

A) turn it into an at-grade urban boulevard, with a 40 m.p.h. speed limit, at least until Compton. Traffic lights would have been present, then, at McCausland, Louisville, Tamm, Hampton, Highlander Drive, Macklind, Kingshighway, Taylor, Newstead, Tower Grove, etc. This option could have used the right-of-way to establish a new transit corridor.

B) tunnel it and restore Oakland as the rightful southern boundary of the park.

C) rid of highway 40 in the City of St. Louis (at least between McCausland and Kingshighway) altogether. The two year closure, which everyone survived, proved that drivers could do without the interstate at its full extent.

D) accepting the project basically as is, it should have gone all out on landscaped medians to complement Forest Park, perhaps with sculptures akin to Animals Always to highlight the Zoo's presence nearby. It should have also designed overpasses differently for each neighborhood to reflect their heritage, with the Tamm overpass painted green with "Dogtown" in Celtic lettering, to give a stereotypical example. Skinker/McCausland should have been labeled "Hi-Pointe/DeMun", perhaps done up in institutional Tudor style to reflect nearby Wash U. There should have also been HOV lanes.

Again, I know these may come off as "pie in the sky" concepts, but if no one is even talking about them, the next highway re-build project will be just as boring and lifeless. The region's assets that you've highlighted would be better served with direct connections to Forest Park.

Brian said...

I agree with your thoughts about the new highway. I think that it really just give St. Louis a fresher, more impressive feel.

I don't exactly get Matt's argument above. At one point he's calling for us to turn it into an at-grade urban boulevard with stoplights at every intersection, and at another he says that the highway is a failure because we don't have HOV lanes. It seems like those two points completely contradict each other. HOV lanes are reserved for highways with lots of traffic. So, if you are saying that I-64 has lots of traffic, then how could we have ever turned it into a urban boulevard?

Matt M. said...


I don't see how they're contradictory, as I proposed scenarios. Any one scenario would call for different changes than the others, obviously.

Personally, I would favor C (closure of 40 between McCausland and Kingshighway) just because of the effects of the connection of Forest Park to neighborhoods south. But the urban boulevard would be a nice compromise.

The HOV lane proposal came with the idea of conservatively accepting the highway re-build basically as is, but adding incentives for drivers to carpool. Can you explain to me how that's contradictory to the notion of improving the project?

As it stands, the new 40 looks from afar to be a shiny hunk of white concrete. I disagree that it's "good" infrastructure; it's just new. There's nothing progressive or interesting about this project. It says nothing except that the region values its roads a lot. Meanwhile, Metro struggles to fund itself and attract middle class riders because it's so damn easy to drive everywhere. This project did not alleviate this issue; it exacerbated it.

Furthermore, check out this different perspective from someone on Twitter:


Also, as my aunt put it last night, it's just like being whooshed through a pneumatic tube. Faceless. No landmarks."

Faceless. Quite the opposite of Rick's sentiments.

Brian said...

Matt -

I guess I saw your scenarios as all being connected in one way or another. As such, I didn't see how one possible solution could be to turn I-64 into a urban boulevard (which would slow down traffic), while another one would use HOV lanes (which, in theory, is supposed to help keep traffic moving).

As far as the new design of the highway being faceless as you are "whooshed" through the city, isn't that what a highway is supposed to do - to Get you from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible? I'm as big of a sucker as anyone for taking the scenic route, but even before the reconstruction, my scenic route was through the area was on Forest Park Parkway, Ladue, Clayton, etc.

Brian said...

Yikes - Looks like I can't even write a grammatically correct sentence anymore. I meant to say that my scenic route through the area was on Forest Park Parkway, Ladue, Clayton, etc.

Matt M. said...


I guess the question I'm left with is, how crucial is it to privilege "getting from Point A to Point B as fast as possible" over connecting neighborhoods and bolstering other modes of transit?

The 64/40 rebuild will be seen as a missed opportunity down the road.

To have left a 2 mile gap in I-64 would not have been calamitous, especially since the city had gone without it for more than a year anyway.

Now we'll have to wait another 50 years or so before we can even begin to discuss restoring Forest Park's boundaries.