A Bridge Too Far?
I am a bit perplexed by the latest rhetoric from MayorSlay.com on The New Mississippi River Bridge debate.
"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!