As stated more than once in the Final General Management Plan, the National Park Service strongly favors removing I-70. The Missouri Department of Transportation says a new at-grade boulevard would need to carry 50,000 cars each day. The iconic St. Louis Arch deserves and requires an iconic boulevard, the Arch grounds must be weaved back into the city of St. Louis. The National Park Service and MoDOT are right. Several well-known boulevards provide models for fulfilling this potential:
Kingshighway Blvd. runs between Forest Park and the Central West End, the city’s most dense neighborhood, and intersects with I-64. Kingshighway carries 52,054 cars at McRee Avenue daily, 48,584 at Manchester Avenue, 47,094 at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Plaza, and 48,030 at Parkview Place. In addition to the large Washington University Medical Center complex, there is also the Chase Park Plaza, the St. Louis Public Library Schlafly branch, Straub’s Fine Grocers, various shops along Euclid Avenue, Coffee Cartel, Left Bank Books, and so on. The Central West End MetroLink station, St. Louis Art Museum, History Museum, Zoo and Science Center in Forest Park, as well as homes, condos and apartments are all in walking distance. The distance along Kingshighway between Clayton Avenue and Maryland Avenue is about the same as that of Memorial Drive along the Arch grounds, nearly 0.7 miles. The distance between Maryland Avenue and Manchester Avenue is about 1.4 miles, the same length of the new Memorial Drive that City to River has proposed.
The Loop, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Navy Pier, Grant Park and Millennium Park are all in the proximity of Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation, Michigan Avenue handles more than 46,000 vehicles and more than 23,000 pedestrians on its flanking sidewalks at any given point along its length. In some places it easily accommodates 50,000 cars or more. North of the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile is an upscale corridor known for its hotels and nightlife. The 1.4 mile stretch south towards Roosevelt Road separates the Central Business District from Millennium and Grant Parks much as Memorial Drive separates the CBD from the Arch grounds in St. Louis. Near Millennium Park at 30 S Michigan Avenue a traffic volume of 46,500 was recorded on November 7, 2006. The sidewalk to the west had 16,492 pedestrians, while the sidewalk to the east by the park had 6,437. AFed Ex retail location, Au Bon Pain and other restaurants are located on Michigan Avenue.
Intersecting Michigan Avenue and running east-west between the Loop and Buckingham Fountain is Congress Parkway. The 10 block of Congress Parkway has a volume of 62,000 cars a day. A Panera (St. Louis Bread Company) and CVS occupy street level retail locations.
The 3.8-mile stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard known as the Strip runs through the most expensive real estate in the city. The 3700 Block of Las Vegas Boulevard carries 58,000 cars per day and 53,000 pedestrians per day. It runs between some of the largest hotels, casinos, and conferencing centers in the world. Once heavily car-oriented, newer casinos have made efforts to make the strip more accommodating to pedestrians and have encouraged the movement of people between casinos. Expensive spectacles have been created to draw in pedestrians like the Bellagio fountains, the Mirage’s volcano, and street theater. Some pedestrian overpasses have been installed, and more are planned at the busiest intersections. A monorail runs parallel to the strip on the east and many casinos operate private shuttles.
According to the LA Department of Transportation, Santa Monica Boulevard carries up to 60,000 vehicles per day along some stretches. Some human scale intersections like that at Gordon Street have 44,600 cars a day and are adjacent to park space, residences, and retail. Closer to the beach, where the road ends just before the sand, there’s more pedestrian activity and more diverse businesses including Sushi Roku, LenCrafters, Gap, Hooters, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, REI, an English Language School, and dozens of small independent shops.
Washington D.C. is crossed by beautiful boulevards carrying high traffic volumes. Among them, New York Avenue carries 52,400 cars near Capitol Street through a residential neighborhood. Further from the museums and parks, it carries as many as 86,000 cars a day according to the District Department of Transportation. Near the city center, New York Avenue runs by the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Historical Society of Washington, and the National Museum of Women in Arts, finally stopping at the Treasury Building.
The Champs-Élysées is the main parade route for the city and runs 1.25 miles from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. It is a world famous signature street with high end retail, housing, museums, and other landmarks. There are two large palaces and their respective gardens, upscale shopping, Europe’s largest Gap store, the world’s largest Adidas store, Abercrombie & Fitch, Disney, Nike, and luxury brand stores like Louis Vuitton lining the boulevard. More than 80,000 cars move along it each day.
As Metro’s long range plans call for potential Bus Rapid Transit on I-70, I-55, I-44, and I-64, Memorial Drive would be a natural convergence point. A good example of BRT can be seen on Gangnam Daero, a major artery that runs through the main business center of Seoul, South Korea. The road is flanked by high-rise office towers including the headquarters of the Samsung Group, multi-level retail, vertical movie theaters, a giant underground bookstore, interactive LED lighting, and wide sidewalks. At night the small alleyways to the east and west buzz with activity in restaurants, bars, and singing rooms. Buses move along dedicated lanes in the center of the road and stop regularly at bus shelters on expanded portions of the median. The Shin Bundang subway line runs under the street and intersects other lines at every major intersection. Each subway station has an underground shopping center. The two largest English teaching academies in the country are in opposing towers on this street and employ a number of St. Louisans.
Strong regions are known for landmark streets. Downtown is still a pass-through for many. If I-70 remains, hotels, businesses and people will continue to turn their backs to the Arch and the Mississippi River, our city’s front door. A new Memorial Drive puts St. Louis on the map. The iconic St. Louis Arch is best celebrated by being a part of the city. A 20-block boulevard will enliven downtown, weaving the riverfront back into our city, in a way that a 3-block lid and other solutions cannot. The Arch grounds need less surrounding infrastructure, not more.