Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Bridge Too Far?

A Bridge Too Far?

I am a bit perplexed by the latest rhetoric from on The New Mississippi River Bridge debate.

To wit:

"The decisions on the bridge’s financing and design will be made – or not made – by the states of Missouri and Illinois. The votes of the members of EWGCG really don’t matter, except to confirm an impasse...

"I strongly support construction of a bridge across the Mississippi River; I’m much less enthusiastic about meaningless headcounts... The same effort spent on today’s “vote” would be better applied to starting studies on BOTH these options."

I don't see the value in doing in-depth studies on both the coupler and the stand-alone Madison Street vicinity options. We need to pick one or the other, and be serious about it when pursuing Federal funding.

Some things that probably do warrant study include:

1) The impact of the upcoming reopening of the McKinley Bridge as a toll-free route;
2) Better promoting the Eads Bridge as an alternative, especially for traffic headed directly into downtown;
3) Redesigning the Missouri side Poplar Street Bridge approach ramps to handle higher volumes (probably too expensive, but worth a look);
4) Redesigning and sychronizing traffic signals on Memorial Drive.

More distressing, though, is the tone expressed in that brief note. If the EWGCOG Board vote is meaningless, why did the Mayor make the effort to serve as the board chair in 2006? And many of the members are his fellow Democratic elected officials from across the metropolitan area; as well as some Democrat-leaning non-partisan officials, appointees, and regional citizens.

If he does aspire to a higher office that includes some of those areas, it may not be smart to antagonize those officials. And if Mayor Slay does wish to be seen as the penultimate political leader of the metropolitan St. Louis region -- which he pretty much is anyway in the public eye -- then why appear to be stand-offish?

As for this "signature bridge" issue: is that really all that important in the long run? We have a great signature structure on the central riverfront: The Arch! Incidentally, its elevator, parking garage, and nearby riverboats are owned and operated by a regional agency: Metro.

Whatever plan is selected for this new bridge, all the political voices need to be unified in order to get the job done.

Now if even half of the attention paid by various regional officials to this bridge project could be redirected to redeveloping the East St. Louis riverfront as a residential community and tourist attraction oriented toward the mighty Mississippi, and connecting it with the St. Louis side, maybe we could get some serious regional economic benefit from this debate after all!


Anonymous said...

Since the vote split by state -- and it doesn't compel any action by either state's Transportation Department, Slay sort of has a point.

Anonymous said...

As recently studied by national experts, even a toll of $2 would still leave over half the cost of a bigger bridge (and its many more needed approaches) unfunded. Slay should be grateful that Illinois will now foot the bill of a smaller bridge, instead of Missouri passing the buck on a bigger bridge to a cash-strapped city.

Anonymous said...

Neither bridge is what is needed. Someone needs to find a way to ease traffic flow from the bridge onto I-44/55 and from those interstates onto the bridge. That is what causes the real congestion on the PSB.

Anonymous said...

Agreed, the 44/55 ramps to/from the PSB on the MO side cause the most consistent congestion. That's why relocation of 70 traffic will matter very little unless wider, faster ramps are built to 44/55 from the PSB. As studied in the 1990s, such ramps can be built once 70 and Memorial Drive are no longer connected to the PSB. An MLK Coupler still would allow PSB ramp reconfiguration just as much as a bigger MRB would. But sadly MODOT won't even put up the money to redo their own approaches to the PSB, and no concessionaire or even toll authority would ever pay to improve their competition.