Archive for the ‘connectivity’ Category

Small Change in LKS Boulevard Should Bring Big Changes to Arch Grounds

Friday, January 20th, 2012

While much of the attention regarding the upcoming changes to the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (Arch Grounds) that are being led by the CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation (CAR) have focused on the “lid” connection to Downtown and removal of the Arch parking garage to re-open the north end, important changes are also planned for the riverfront.

Due to fluctuations of the water level of the Mississippi River, Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard is often under water during the spring and summer months when the Arch Grounds attracts the most people. This leaves the riverfront inaccessible and limits the experience to views from above or descending the grand staircase to the water. Image above and maps below courtesy of CAR & MVVA.

MVVA has developed a solution to this problem: Raise the elevation of the boulevard. The level of the roadway will be raised from two to three feet along the entire length of the JNEM from the Eads Bridge to Poplar Street. North and south of the bridges, the roadway will transition back to its existing level.

Beyond simply raising the roadbed, the raising and re-building of Leonor K. Sullivan will include an extension of the Confluence Greenway Riverfront Trail which currently starts just a few blocks north of the MLK Bridge at the Ashley Street power plant. Along with the extended trail will be pedestrian and lighting improvements.

The new raised boulevard will also allow the riverfront boats to remain in operation by allowing them to extend their ramps across the flooded levee to the sidewalk during high water.

Many details will need to be worked out with the plan to raise Leonor K. Sullivan. This earlier rendering from MVVA showed the levee seamlessly blending with the boulevard, eliminating the awkward level changes, second roadway and entirely eliminating parking from the levee. It is unclear now how whether level of the levee will change as well whether parking will be allowed along the new boulevard. The water marker pylons in the water though have apparently been eliminated. A public presentation by CAR and MVVA later this month will hopefully answer some of these questions, but so far, the concept seems to bring vast improvement to the existing conditions along the riverfront.

Arch Program and Timing Concerns: Roulette with Consequences

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Since the completion of the design competition and selection of MVVA as the winning team, the specifics of the Arch improvement program and the timing of implementation have been unclear. While there is still no definitive plan for the Arch grounds, pieces of the overall program seem to be designed on an ad-hoc basis.

Without explanation, the East Side area has been removed completely from the environmental review underway for the Arch improvement program. Initially, improving the connection to the East Side was a major emphasis of both the overall National Park Service General Management Plan and the CityArchRiver competition. At this time, the East Side appears to have been completely removed from the proposal for the October 2015 deadline. Furthermore, while details of plans for the actual Arch grounds and its adjacent streets are not known, major changes to Kiener Plaza are being proposed, including removal of the popular waterfall feature, community gathering space, and main stage. The future of the circular pond and statue is unknown. This raises a fundamental question: if funding cannot be found to examine the most comprehensive connectivity solution, then why should we spend resources to erase and rebuild Kiener Plaza for the third time in half a century?

While not included in the design competition, MODOT is proposing major changes to Memorial Drive and the depressed lanes, including adding two freeway ramps between the Mansion House and the Arch Grounds. Before opening the concept to public comment and completing environmental review, MODOT has scheduled the new freeway ramps for construction beginning in Spring 2012.

At the same time, funding for improving the Arch grounds themselves is not yet in place. Is it possible that MODOT will be building new highway ramps and widening the depressed lanes while others are still trying to identify funding sources to build the lid and redo Kiener Plaza?

The effort to improve the Arch grounds is complex and very expensive. Funding is tight and plans remain in flux. A self-imposed deadline is rapidly approaching. City to River is concerned that the project is moving forward without acceptable strategies for improvements, funding, traffic circulation, completed environmental review, transparency and community involvement.

In a worst case scenario, it is conceivable that the arch would be further isolated from downtown with expansive new highway ramps next year, and a lack of funding would force the elimination of the cap. If that were to happen the outcome would be far worse than the initial condition.

Upcoming Event Seeks to Re-envision the Mississippi Riverfront

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Although it has been a busy month for City to River, we want to take a moment to redirect attention from the situation at the Arch Grounds to a process that has great potential to achieve reconnections between St. Louis and the Mississippi River. Most St. Louisians are undoubtedly familiar with the North Riverfront Trail. This single trail is currently responsible for 60% of the length of currently accessible connections between St. Louis City and the Mississippi. City to River is supporting current efforts to improve connections to the Riverfront Trail and to transform an abandoned viaduct into the third elevated linear park in the world.

This of course begs the question: what about the South Riverfront?

Nextstl.com recently did a thorough write-up of the challenges and opportunities surrounding a South Riverfront Trail. It is interesting to note from that article that the entire Riverfront Trail was planned in 1987 as the St. Louis Riverfront Bikeway. At that time it was believed that a bikeway along the entire riverfront would “create demand for more extensive access to the river” and serve as “the first step towards the evolution of the St. Louis Riverfront”.

STL River Front Bikeway Feasibility Study 1987

Fortuitously, Great Rivers Greenway is currently planning to complete the Riverfront Trail from the Arch Grounds to the South Bank of the River Des Peres. At this point there is still understandable ambiguity surrounding precise alignments, but this project has the promise to open up a significant stretch of inaccessible riverfront to the citizens of St. Louis. Two open houses will be held this week to explain the goals of the project and update the public on the process. This is not an event to miss!

For those of you interested in the intimate connectivity between riverine systems and neighborhoods, there will also be a region-wide clean up of the much-maligned River Des Peres watershed on October 8th. A T-shirt and snacks will be provided.