Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Alternate Routes

Alternate Routes

So, yesterday I drove to and from St. Peters to give a presentation to one of our FastTrac classes.

The class was held at the MU Extension St. Charles County office, which is located at 260 Brown Rd. in the part of St. Peters most people don't even realize exists -- north of I-70. Getting there, you pass along Main St. through the roughly eight-square block Old Town area, which was the entire town from 1815 until 1970, when massive annexations and development began.

I used the Veterans Memorial Bridge on MO 364 -- better known as the infamous Page Avenue Extension -- to get out there. Actually, I pretty much avoided the Interstate system during most of this trip. Sometimes I wonder why other folks can't understand that, yes, there are alternatives to taking I-64/US 40 and I-70 for east-west car travel in this region.

But you may also recall the Page Ave. Extension was, for a time, a cause celebre in the urban sprawl debate. Of course, I'm not sure how much it really has contributed to sprawl by itself, given that it just drops you off on MO 94 in the Harvester area, then you still have to take other roads to get to an Interstate. It does pass over the southernmost tip of Creve Coeur Lake, which is unfortunate to say the least.

I actually used the direct connection onto Muegge Road from MO 364, which eventually leads to the Cave Springs area along I-70 in St. Peters.

Coming back, I briefly hopped onto I-70 at Mid Rivers, then without changing lanes took the Discovery Bridge on MO 370 to re-enter St. Louis County.

I can remember a time, c. 1993, when MO 370 had its westernmost terminus at MO 94 in St. Charles. Now, of course, it connects to I-70 about halfway between Cave Springs and Mid Rivers.

370 seems like a much more likely culprit for promoting sprawl, as most of the area surrounding it has been developed into industrial parks and other businesses -- as well as New Town St. Charles -- that were previously inaccessible floodplain land. It may have also made it easier to access the northern reaches of uphill St. Charles, thereby promoting continued residential development there.

Also, at least MO 364 has a dedicated bicycling path. While MO 370 has share-the-road signage and MRT corridor designation, the amount of debris that accumulates in the non-standard width shoulders along the outer edge of each roadway makes walking or cycling across the Discovery Bridge rather harrowing.

By comparison, the Old Route 115 Bridge had a walkway along one side, with stairs leading down to Main Street.

There's now actually less non-car access to St. Charles proper than there was 100 years ago! From 1904 to 1932, the old bridge carried a streetcar line.

Anyway, once into St. Louis County I used the direct connection from MO 370 to Missouri Bottom Road, avoiding I-270 altogether. I cut through what used to be called the "Brown Campus" to access McDonnell Boulevard.

And eventually, I made my way to North Broadway (via Halls Ferry). Now that is a speedway! From Baden south to O'Fallon Park, it's six lanes, and almost nobody keeps to the 35 MPH speed limit. South of O'Fallon Park, most of the high-speed traffic has hopped onto I-70, but the many big rigs can be scary at times.

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