July 9, 2009

Reshaping the Riverfront

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     I start with this disclaimer:  I’m in an awkward position…I need highways…I use highways as well as the Mississippi River bridges to travel around the region…I am not anti-interstate-infrastructure and don’t want to be perceived as such. Nonetheless, I spotted an intriguing article that was so interestingly counter to conventional wisdom, that I wanted to share it.
     We’ve probably all heard about the community’s desire to improve the physical connection between Downtown St. Louis, the Arch grounds and the riverfront. And the underground interstate always seems to be an impenetrable barrier.  However, this article from The Infrastructurist provides an intriguing approach: remove the highway completely. It’s a radical idea and one which undoubtedly required much thought and community conversation in each instance. But look at the pictures, especially Portland, and see if the “before” doesn’t look familiar. And then wonder how our own “after” could look without the cars (replaced by MetroLink, MetroBuses, bikes and pedestrians instead).

Metro Lifestyle

6 thoughts on “Reshaping the Riverfront”

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    All 4 examples show elevated freeways being removed – we’re dealing with a depressed section here – just putting a lid on it seems to be a much simpler answer (much like burying Metrolink in Clayton?!). But seriously, until the new Missouri River bridge is completed and a funding source is identified, I don’t expect much change here . . .

  2. Todd H says:

    That’s a great point about just putting a lid on the interstate. A plant/flower garden, art project, or the like would be much more pleasing to the eye…less air pollution, noise, etc. as well. I’ve always thought it odd and unfortunate that this area was never developed. Last time I noticed, I also don’t recall any curb cuts on the sidewalks (above interstate) going over to the Arch grounds from the Old Courthouse. Individuals in wheelchairs would be forced to travel in the street and risk getting hit by a vehicle. Funding is surely an issue – but in my opinion, interest seems to be the greater issue. How many more decades need to pass before someone (willing and able) recognizes the need and makes improvement a priority?

  3. Jon Morgan says:

    This is hardly new or radical at all. The Congress for New Urbanism has a list of 100 Freeways Without Futures (http://www.cnu.org/highways/freewayswithoutfutures). San Francisco, Portland and Milwaukee have successfully removed waterfront highways, Seattle is about to, and Toronto, DC and many other North American cities are considering it. It’s a no-brainer. Highways don’t belong on urban waterfronts. In fact the only place they belong in urban areas is underground.

  4. Todd H says:

    Thanks for the site link, Jon. As Jimmy Z mentioned the incoming bridge north of downtown STL, it will be very interesting to see what, if anything, becomes of the downtown section of I-70…

  5. Jon Morgan says:

    Sure thing. 🙂 The New Orleans paper just did an article on potential removal of a similar highway there: http://www.cnu.org/node/2967

    I’m not familiar with all the details in STL not living there anymore, but I’d say it’s not only the I-70 section that’s important to bury or remove, but I-44/I-55 as well.

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