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Our Proposal: A New Front Door for St. Louis

Traffic: A new Memorial Drive will improve traffic flow and reduce downtown congestion.

Downtown St. Louis' street grid is mostly underutilized. Built to accommodate 900,000 residents, our city streets now serve less than half that number. Most experts agree that traffic moves well in St. Louis and that the road system has excess capacity and is "self-healing". Our region witnessed this phenomenon first hand through the construction of the new Interstate 64. A Memorial Drive in place of I-70 will have much less impact than a closed I-64.

A new Memorial Drive introduces a new north-south riverfront connector
Most major roads lead away from the river. Broadway, an important north-south running street, on the west side of the Old Court House and away from the riverfront and Arch grounds, would connect with an extension of Memorial Drive on the north side of downtown. Other than Broadway, the first major north-south running through street in downtown is Tucker, 12 blocks west of the river. A new Memorial Drive introduces a new north-south connector adjacent to the riverfront and Arch.

Traffic Management
Since St. Louis survived the 2-year shutdown of Interstate 64 with little difficulty, we know that the closing of an interstate highway is manageable. A new boulevard would maintain capacity while introducing a more human-scale environment.

Drivers planning to travel through downtown (e.g., connecting from I-70 to I-55 or I-44, or vice versa) will travel along the new Memorial Drive for less than one and a half miles before reconnecting with the interstate. Of course, traffic on this route will be significantly reduced as a result of the rerouting of I-70 and the multiple other routes opened into the city. The new boulevard will carry an estimated 50,000 cars per day, approximately the same as Kingshighway Boulevard adjacent to Forest Park and major boulevards in other cities (e.g., Michigan Avenue adjacent to Chicago's Millennium Park).

Timing of signalized intersections along the new Memorial Drive to correspond to peak and reduced traffic periods will minimize delays for traffic entering or exiting downtown during commute hours, while maximizing pedestrian access at other times. At all times drivers and pedestrians would have more options when entering and exiting downtown. Currently, a driver heading north on I-55/I-44 wishing to visit the Arch must exit south of I-64 to reach Memorial Drive and then continue to the north end of the park to find parking. If a driver misses this exit they must continue north for two miles before having the option to exit again.

A restored street grid would prevent much of the looped traffic, those looking for Arch access or navigating the confusing web of one-way streets. Proposed on-street parking would alleviate some of the looped traffic searching for parking.

Minimal Disruption to New Bridge Design
Construction of a new Memorial Drive has minimal impact on the design of the interchange at 70 and the landing of the new bridge in St. Louis. With the new bridge design, drivers crossing the new bridge entering downtown will exit onto the city street system with no access to the depressed lanes or southbound 55/westbound 44. Westbound travelers on the new 70 entering downtown will exit onto the city street grid at Cass Avenue. With Interstate 70 traffic crossing the new Mississippi River Bridge, Memorial Drive becomes a new downtown exit from the interstate. Find out more about the New River Bridge.

While the timeframe of the NPS General Management Plan is only 15-20 years, it is likely that the improvements installed as a result of the current design competition will be designed to last 50 years. The decision we are making today is intended to fix once and for all the connectivity problems which have plagued downtown since the construction of the interstate.

Learn more about:

Connectivity >>
Cost >>
Traffic >>
Economic Benefits >>

Find out about:

The history of our riverfront >>
The City+Arch+River Design Competition >>
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