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Tuesday Tussle: Part 2, Keegan Is Wrong, We Need a New Memorial Drive

Categories: Tuesday Tussle
gaping wound.JPG
citytoriver.org
Look at this "gaping wound" of a highway
Keegan, there's a reason why smoothing access between Downtown and the Arch appeals to a bunch of smart people at:
It just makes sense. Heck, it might even make "cents." (See what I did there?)

You rightly point out that, whiners be damned, it's not really that tough to walk to and from the Arch. You stroll across a bridge over 1-70's depressed lanes, or you scurry underneath the elevated lanes. Done. Hooray!

But physical access isn't really the problem. Third-grade field trips traverse the corridor all the time and suffer no casualties (well, not yet). What everybody hates is the gloomy psychological obstacle of a major interstate looming between us and our monument along the Mississippi.
Sure, it's just perception, but in urban economics, perception matters, big-time. (Here's a document detailing all the good and very real stuff that happened once Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Milwaukee and other metropolises cleared hulking freeways from their centers).
 
I know what you're going to say, Keegan. This is all gonna cost lotsa taxpayer $$$ and create traffic havoc. The City to River group estimates - conservatively - that replacing the elevated and depressed lanes with a flat-ish new Memorial Drive would cost $70 million.
 
But compare that to the $524 million we dropped on the new Highway 40. We all survived that inconvenience for a couple years. We can handle this.
 
In fact, we might even make a little skrill on the deal. See, the new Mississippi River Bridge - construction of which is already underway - is going to allow cars and trucks cruising across America's heartland on I-70 to bypass St. Louis entirely to our north. That means less traffic pouring into downtown.
 
And that means we could create a sleek new Memorial Drive that would likely free up some space for new buildings. To get a visual idea of what I'm talking about, look at the image below cribbed from the City to River presentation.

Wash Ave and Memorial.JPG
citytoriver.org
Now THIS is a downtown, people.
New buildings by themselves don't create commerce. Entrepreneurs do that. But new buildings can create a buzz, a perception of renewal that might attract businesses, which would generate tax revenue (God knows the City needs it).

And right now is the perfect opportunity: between the new bridge construction and renovation of the Arch grounds, the whole area's gonna be torn up anyway.
 
Lastly, my dear Keegan, I don't want to get too poetic on you, but for the early generations, the mighty river was their lifeblood, their major highway, a big part of their identity. The Arch too, since the 1960s, has come to stand for our city.
 
But if you're one of the tens of thousands streaming in daily to work, watch the Cardinals, or wet your whistle on Washington Avenue, how often do you make it all the way up to the riverfront? Do you feel beckoned by that smelly, noisy interstate standing in your path? Do you know what's lurking in the shadows when you try to cross under it?
 
The crossing should be smoother. More inviting. Less visually and emotionally obstructive. The things on the other side of that busy thoroughfare do represent, at some level, who we are as a citizenry.

Perception matters.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed herein should be construed only as argument for the sake of argument, and not as the personal opinions of the authors. In fact, the authors' positions in "Tuesday Tussle" are decided by coin toss.

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