Our Proposal FAQs Media Blog About What You Can Do City to River

City to River's proposal understandably raises a number of questions. Here are the issues that we are most often asked to answer:

Who is City to River and what is it trying to accomplish?

City to River, an all-volunteer citizens group, has a mission to to improve the quality of life of the St. Louis region by reconnecting its urban core to the Mississippi River through the implementation of physical improvements and sustainable programs. Our intensive focus is on the removal of the elevated and depressed lanes of Interstate 70 that cut through the heart of downtown St. Louis, replacing the highway with a grade-level, urban boulevard. We are also involved with several connectivity projects on the North Riverfront.

More information about City to River >>

How will City to River's idea benefit St. Louis, and why is it worthy of my support?

For almost half a century, Interstate 70 has functioned as a physical and psychological barrier between St. Louis, on the one hand, and the Mississippi River and Gateway Arch, on the other. This confusing and intimidating mass of infrastructure has resulted in the vast underutilization of St. Louis's greatest natural and manmade assets, and their isolation from downtown and adjacent historic districts.

St. Louis deserves better than this.

The realization of City to River's vision not only will reconnect the City, the Arch, and the River to the greatest extent possible, but also will create enormous investment and development opportunities to supplement and invigorate downtown's ongoing revitalization for years to come.

More information on City to River's proposal >>

OK, but get real—how could a project like this even be possible?

The confluence of two major development projects makes what might seem an urbanist fantasy into a realistic, achievable goal.

First, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial—home of the Gateway Arch—will soon be redesigned as part of an ongoing international design competition, the express purpose of which is to reconnect St. Louis to the Memorial and the Mississippi River.

Second, construction has begun on a new Mississippi River bridge that will reroute Interstate 70 to the north of downtown.

These two projects, slated for completion within 20 months of each other, together present St. Louis with a once-in-a-century opportunity to reclaim its urban core.

More information on the feasibility of this project >>

This all sounds good, but I just don't see how it will work. If former Interstate 70 is removed from downtown, how will traffic be affected? Specifically, how will drivers get from Interstate 70 to Interstates 55 and 44?

City to River strongly believes that a new Memorial Drive will actually improve traffic flow through downtown St. Louis by giving drivers more options. For traffic entering and leaving the city, a boulevard adjacent to the downtown grid creates many more east-west access connectors to downtown (and beyond) than currently exist. Many drivers will bypass downtown altogether, as east-west I-70 traffic is rerouted over the new bridge and drivers on Interstates 64 and 55 continue to use the Poplar Street Bridge to cross the Mississippi River.

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 a mile and a half 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). Signalized intersections will be carefully timed to minimize delays for traffic entering or exiting downtown during commute hours, and to maximize pedestrian access at other times.

More information on traffic issues >>

Even if the traffic issues could be solved, how could a project of this magnitude be possible financially, particularly in such difficult economic times?

Using the cost of the recent Highway 64/40 project as a guide, City to River estimates that the cost of replacing the downtown lanes of the former I-70 with a new at-grade boulevard (which will consist primarily of demolition, fill and at-grade paving) would range between $70 and $100 million. Although this is a lot of money to spend on an infrastructure project, two things must be kept in mind.

First, even putting aside City to River's proposal, an enormous amount of public and private money—hundreds of millions of dollars—is about to be spent on the redesign of the Memorial. The express purpose of the design competition is to "take one of our country's first urban park sites [and] weave it into the city fabric." City to River believes that only the removal of the highway barrier can truly achieve this goal and represents the wisest expenditure of a portion of the funds that are already planned for investment.

Second, removing the former Interstate 70 and constructing a new boulevard will be a less costly alternative to other proposed "solutions" (discussed further below), and will actually constitute a long-term investment in downtown St. Louis. The boulevard creates the potential for up to 500,000 square feet of new real estate facing the Arch and adjacent to the boulevard, re-claimed from the highway right-of-way. This results in the creation of $1.2 billion in additional real estate market value in the impacted area over the next 20-25 years, with additional prospects for on-street parking and a central underground garage. This return on investment and development potential, confirmed by a leading independent provider of development consulting and appraisal services, is simply unavailable with other "band-aid" alternatives.

More information on the economic benefits of a boulevard >>

But surely there are ways of addressing this problem that are easier, cheaper, and less disruptive to existing traffic patterns. For example, what about the idea of a "lid" I have been hearing about?

City to River believes that other proposals we have seen to the barrier problem are far inferior to removal of former Interstate 70. Quite simply, a twenty-block boulevard will weave the riverfront back into our city in a way that a three-block lid and other "solutions" cannot. A three-block lid would leave the elevated lanes on the north end of the Memorial and flyover ramps on the south in place, doing nothing to connect those areas—including the critical Washington Avenue corridor—with the riverfront.

In addition, a three-block lid, with an estimated total project cost of approximately $107 million, could actually cost more than removing I-70 altogether. A lid—which is functionally a tunnel—will require significant costs associated with ongoing security, staffing, operations, maintenance and repair (I-70 was built in 1964 and will need to be rebuilt or replaced in the near future in any event). These costs would be largely mitigated with a boulevard that requires only maintenance and repair typical of other major city streets. The funds it would take to cover a small portion of downtown I-70 simply could be used much more wisely by removing the highway altogether.

We shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good, and the proposed three block lid is fully compatible with eventual highway removal. A boulevard can be designed to dip underneath the lid -- in the place of the current interstate -- with a seamless at grade connection of the boulevard sidewalk to the lid.

More information on the lower cost of building a boulevard >>

Aren't there many other obstacles to achieving this goal? For example, would the powers-that-be really get behind an idea like this?

Although a number of challenges must be overcome in a short amount of time to achieve City to River's goal, support for its vision increases every day. Numerous individuals, businesses and organizations have endorsed City to River. We have met with key political leaders and several of the design competition teams and have received generally positive feedback. The National Park Service has expressed a strong preference for highway removal, and the Missouri Department of Transportation has indicated that removal is possible so long as the boulevard can be shown to accommodate 50,000 cars per day (which other major boulevards have shown to be possible). Given that the National Park Service owns the land under downtown I-70 and leases it to MoDOT, these federal and state departments have the power to effectuate City to River's plan if they are convinced that it is backed by strong public and political support.

Isn't the design competition over? What role do you have in the final design?

While the CityArchRiver design competition selected a team headed Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the concept they presented was far from a finished plan. Rather, MVVA has continued to refine the plan based on input from the CityArchRiver Foundation. Several features have disappeared, Memorial Drive and Washington Avenue will be closed and other changes are in the pipeline. MVVA articulated that "the benefits of removing the highway altogether are clear" and highway removal even remains possible as a later phase after the initial arch grounds project is completed.

OK, I'm on board. How can I help, and how can I track City to River's progress?

City to River strongly encourages all St. Louisans to take an active role in promoting the reconnection of the City to its riverfront—after all, this is a decision we will all live with for the rest of our lives. You can help by contacting political leaders, spreading the word to family, friends, and colleagues, helping us contact downtown stakeholders, and keeping public discussion alive. In addition, there are continual opportunities to help more directly with our efforts in downtown and other focus areas. For more information, find out What You Can Do

City to River is an open organization. We welcome new supporters and new members. Interested? You can join our membership list to receive alerts, advanced notice of events, and opportunities for involvement.

To track our progress please visit our blog, become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. We encourage people to check in often to track new developments and to see where City to River may need your help.

Of course, we will answer any other questions the community may have to the best of our ability. If you have other questions, wish to be added to our mailing list, or need additional information to determine how to support City to River's efforts, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at info@citytoriver.org.

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