Sunday, December 27, 2009

Twitter

I've started using Twitter! I'll post updates and quick thoughts to it as I get around to it.

Check it out- http://www.twitter.com/bendeclue
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Truman Boulevard- Jefferson County's first Great Streets project?

For many years Truman Boulevard (61/67) served as the main North-South connector to and from St. Louis for the eastern side of Jefferson County. Before I-55 this road, running through Crystal City, Festus, Herculaneum and Pevely, was THE freight and passenger route for residents to get to work up north. As you might expect from a road of that importance in the 1960's-70's, it was built to almost exclusively accommodate motorized traffic. Additionally, the development that sprang up along Truman was not part of any unified plan, leading to too many entrances and exits (causing safety issues), very few greenspaces in developed areas (causing stormwater runoff issues), and many of the buildings were of poor quality that only today are beginning to be razed and redeveloped. Essentially today's Truman Boulevard does meets few, if any, of the standards that would be required in a modern roadway.

However, the quad-city area is not alone in dealing with an out-of-date commercial corridor of this nature. Many commercial corridor roads in St. Louis County and streets in St. Louis City suffer from the same design flaws as Truman Boulevard. To help begin to correct these flaws, the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, which controls all federal funding (ie our tax dollars) for highway and roads projects in the St. Louis area (including Jefferson County) set up a program called "The Great Streets Initiative" and began funding planning and construction efforts for a few model projects. Additionally, they have set up a general resource site for other communities to take advantage of, although without the assistance of any funding.

The purpose of the Great Streets Initiative is to redesign major commercial thoroughfares, particularly ones that connect multiple communities or serve as major neighborhood hubs, that have begun unraveling or falling into disuse commercially, by providing the communities involved with the funding and technical resources required to completely re-imagine these areas for future use. This process relies heavily on community visioning, involvement, and feedback, creating an area for all users that will serve as an attractive area for residents. E-W Gateway selected four projects/areas for funding and by all accounts the results have been tremendously successful.

Since these projects are taxpayer funded and the initial round of projects went to area in St. Louis City and County, its time for Jefferson County to step up to the plate and ask for a project of our own- a complete redesign and construction of Truman Boulevard (61/67) from the southern point in Crystal City/Festus up through Pevely. The redesign should be focused on creating safer traffic intersections, a more logical system of accessing businesses lining the highway, pedestrian crosswalks at intersections, and especially a focus on providing access for all users, transforming the highway from a 4 lane river of pavement for automobiles to a boulevard with trees and greenspace, sidewalks, bike accommodations, and a better coordination of commercial buildings to provide an inviting, safe, and pleasant shopping, driving, and walking experience along the way.

A major project like this will take years to do, but the benefits to the fabric of our community, interconnectedness of the quad-city area, and everyday experience along this route will be immeasurable. Its time to transform Truman Boulevard from a basic 4 lane road for cars into a true boulevard supporting multiple uses for all people!

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Updates!

Sorry for the lack of new posts lately! I wanted to give a quick update on two big projects that we've been talking about since Day 1 of this blog- Complete Streets and Tree City USA status.

First, I'm pleased to report that the Tree Care/Board ordinance required for Tree City USA status has been introduced to the City Council and will be refined at the worksession on January 18th. The plan is to have this wrapped up fairly quickly so Crystal City will be able to adopt an Arbor Day proclamation and provide for a community forest program in the next budget. That will complete the Tree City USA requirements and allow for Crystal City to apply for Tree City status after the start of the next budget year in April.

Second, a few months ago after a presentation from our friends at Trailnet, the City Council decided that a Complete Streets policy is worth pursuing and accepted our offer of assistance toward that goal. Having assembled a great working group and collaborating with them, we have nearly completed the final draft of a Complete Streets policy to be presented to the council. We hope to be able to present the Complete Streets policy at the same worksession as the Tree Care/Board ordinance. Again we hope for an aggressive, but workable timetable and hope to have work on this project completed by March/April along with the Tree City program.

Positive things are on the horizon for Crystal City!

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