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However, the quad-city area is not alone in dealing with an out-of-date commercial corridor of this nature.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!

2 comments:

  1. This project you are bringing forward will be an expensive plan, but on that could be well worth the reward in communities like Festus/Crystal/Pevely. With the growth that is taking place throughout the county, both foot, car, and truck traffic is increasing. With this increase, there is the increased risk to both driver and pedestrian. Creating safe roadways and walkways should be a priority for not just the Festus/Crystal/ Pevely area, but throughout Jefferson County.

    As to the cost, there could be other options to funding than taxes or grants alone. As the developers are rushing to the county to build, communities should consider having them share the cost in some of these improvement projects that are needed due to the population increase they are helping to create.

    I thought your article in the Jefferson County Journal was well written about sidewalks also. YOu may wish to contact the Arnold Commission for the Aging and Disabled as they have recently presented plans to the City of Arnold about the needs for sidewalk when it comes to access for people in wheelchairs.

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  2. Thanks for the post Fozzy! I appreciate your kind words on my first column for the Journals as well. I wanted to do an article more focused on the Complete Streets movement but had some difficulty meeting the various regulations that I have to follow in writing for the SJ.

    I agree that reconstruction projects like this would be expensive, but ultimately they are going to have to be undertaken in many, many communities like ours. Too many areas have large road barriers running through them that prevent better development and access for all users instead of just automobiles.

    For all the hundreds of billions of dollars that were thrown around in the recent bailout package, if they could have set aside 10% of that money, annually, for a program dedicated to community roadway redesign and upgrade efforts like this, I believe that the local construction jobs and economic opportunities offered by that kind of a funding would really have done a lot for the national economy over the long-term.

    I also agree that developers MUST pay their fare share. Impact fees seem to have no traction so the logical solution is to ensure that in ANY private project receiving ANY form of public assistance (TFF, CID, NID, TDD, abatements, etc) that all roadwork be designed and built to accommodate all users (as appropriate). If a shopping center has a huge parking lot, it needs sidewalks from the road to the building for allow for pedestrian and bicycle access. It should also have trees and grass to minimize stormwater impact, improve visual aesthetics, and most importantly ensure that the bike/pedestrian space is not only usable but enjoyable as well to stimulate use.

    If you're interested in these sorts of issues, check out the post I made on Complete Streets- its a project I consider vitally important for Jefferson County and all of its municipalities going forward as we begin to develop on a large scale. FYI as I mentioned in the article I'm currently working with Crystal City on a Complete Streets policy (for free).

    http://crystalcity2010.blogspot.com/2009/08/complete-streets-policy-proposal.html

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