The East-West Gateway Council of Governments is the designated regional planning agency for the St. Louis metropolitan region. East-West Gateway coordinates region-wide initiatives across metropolitan boundaries to fulfill its mission:
To help create a better sense of “region” among our unique local government constituency by acting as a catalyst to achieve consensus on regional issues, plan alternative actions, and aggressively pursue positive change in the physical, economic, and social environment.
One of the major responsibilities of the agency is to oversee the regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). The TIP is essentially a schedule that allots federal resources to local transportation projects. TIPs combine the many government’s plans in the St. Louis region into one coherent regional strategy, clearing the way for specific federal funding channels to be available for transportation projects in our region. Included plans cover highway construction as well as public transportation and all significant highway and major transit projects must be included in the region’s TIP plan in order to land funding. East-West Gateway is currently in the process of issuing a new TIP for the period 2012-2015, a timeframe consistent with the 2015 City Arch River Foundation deadline for the completion of improvements to the Arch grounds.
Many projects included in previous TIPs have had significant impacts on the region. Several such completed or current projects are the new I-70 Mississippi River Bridge and the rebuild of I-64 from the City of St. Louis to Ballas Road in St. Louis County. The new inclusion of funding for improvements connected with the Arch grounds project puts highway funding for the Arch improvement effort directly on the region’s priority list.
TIP plans for the Arch grounds include $1,000,000 in Metro funding for improved cycling and pedestrian connections (classified as sustainable development) and $25,373,000 in MODOT funding for 1.65 miles of roadway reconstruction on or near Memorial Drive and I-70 from the Poplar Street Bridge to Washington Avenue (classified as preservation).
The specifics of the MODOT proposal have not been released to the public however the image shown on the cover the East-West Gateway TIP document features a view of the Old Court House shot from Memorial Drive at the depressed lanes. Whatever the exact nature of the $25 million in highway-related construction, it is troubling that automobile-centered transportation is being prioritized by a 25:1 ratio in the urban center of our region.