Removing the highway and creating a New Memorial Drive restores a wide range of connections currently severed by Interstate 70 as it exists today. A simple boulevard will do. We just return the street grid to the way it was before: active and connected.
New Memorial Drive Connections (click to download pdf)
A boulevard will create direct connections for not only bikes and pedestrians, but cars as well. Cross-points are currently limited on Memorial Dr./I-70. Cars can only drive under the elevated lanes at Washington Ave and over the depressed lanes at two cross-points for each direction (Walnut and Chestnut going east, Market and Pine going west). Adding more east-west connections will improve traffic flow. The boulevard will allow for up to 10 additional cross-points for automobile traffic.
Connecting a National Monument to Downtown St. Louis
Connecting the Gateway Mall and the Old Courthouse to the Arch grounds is indeed important for creating a unified National Monument and a clear link between our downtown and our greatest civic symbol. But we can do more. Reducing the great gulf between the park and the city allows for the creation of new city blocks for an expansion of our CBD and new economic development. This healing of the urban fabric would be accomplished by the removal of the depressed lanes and replacing them with an at-grade boulevard.
The lid and underground tunnel that has been proposed only covers a few blocks and partially fixes this problem. We also have elevated lanes creating a wall between our city and our river.
The tunnel is a three-block solution for a 20-block problem.
Connections on the South
Our national park is also cut off from Busch Stadium, our future Ballpark Village, and Downtown South due to the elevated lanes of I-70.
The on and off ramps of the Interstate 55/64/70 junction are a tangled mess creating a barrier that is impossible to cross on foot or in a car. Their removal would create a more humane space. We could get from the park to a baseball game by only a short walk. In the process we could also discover new connections between downtown and the future Chouteau’s Landing development.
Connections on the North
The elevated section to the north is just as serious of a barrier to our downtown development.
The Loft District along Washington Avenue containing the City Museum, art galleries and historic buildings leads right up to the highway and comes to a halt. With a New Memorial Drive, it could be joined to Laclede’s Landing, the park, and the Metrolink station located there.
The boulevard would connect currently isolated attractions and places into one large entertainment and tourism district. These include America’s Center and the Edward Jones Dome to the west and Lumiere Place Casino and Laclede’s Landing to the east of the highway.
Convention-going out-of-towners at the America’s Center could eat lunch on the Landing and still make it back in time for their next event. There would be a freer flow of people and money. With a New Memorial Drive, the Dome could be at the center of a football village of its own. Rams fans before and after games could linger in the surrounding districts and use a number of Metrolink stations, including the one at the Landing.
Further to the north additional areas await future redevelopment. These include the Bottle District and the North Riverfront Development District —a reawakening of our industrial past with new residents and excitement.
Who wants to live next to a highway? This looming hulk of visual clutter robs us of economic development between some of the most exciting districts in our city. Removing the elevated lanes of the interstate to the north and south is the only way to realize the full potential of what could be the most prime real estate in our region.
Strengthening the North-South Spine
A tunnel concept will help narrowly address an east-west connection, but it does nothing to solve the north-south problem for pedestrian traffic. Right now, going from the south end to the north end of Memorial Drive is a visually disturbing and unappealing trek. On the west we have the gray concrete backsides of buildings and hideous parking garages looming over a narrow sidewalk with cars bustling by on Memorial. It is not a walk anyone would take for pleasure. On the east side of Memorial, the situation is only slightly improved. The park grounds provide some visual respite, but still the jarring contrast between the trees and open space of the park grounds and its hostile border begs for a solution. We can do so much better with an at grade boulevard designed for pedestrians, transit, and traffic, with appropriate greenness to welcome the Arch grounds to the city with a friendlier border.