Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Here is a truck unloading a delivery on Olive Street in the heart of the improving Old Post Office District of downtown St. Louis. The truck is double parked, leaving room for cars to pass in the next lane. The scene is a sign of life and commerce. Trucks are an important part of a vibrant city.
Ten years ago, you'd rarely see a truck unloading in the heart of downtown St. Louis. Today, cars, pedestrians, cyclists and trucks are all learning to share the streets of a healthy urban core.
Meanwhile, a few blocks east, long range plans are in the works to reconnect downtown to the riverfront and Arch grounds. City to River is promoting the concept of highway removal and the creation of a new urban street in its place.
In the planning process leading up to the Arch design competition, there was widespread agreement that the biggest problem facing the Arch was a lack of connectivity to downtown and that the biggest barrier to those connections is the existence of I-70.
All five finalist design teams acknowledge the problem with the highway barrier and many of them stated that highway removal is the ultimate solution to reconnecting downtown to the riverfront and Arch grounds.
Replacing a highway with a boulevard means that truck traffic will be using the city street grid. It also means there will be more traffic on the streets of downtown. This means more people and commerce in the city instead of bypassing it.
A plan to replace a highway with an urban street is going to create questions and opposition. The two main objections to the plan for highway removal have been: 1) increasing truck traffic on city streets and, 2) increasing traffic congestion on city streets, causing delays.
Isn't it ironic that the ultimate urban design solution to reconnecting downtown to the riverfront is opposed due to reasons of increasing urban vitality?