Council Plaza and Grand Center Part 4: Accessability and Social Justice

I couldn’t help but notice what a horrible pedestrian environment Grand Boulevard provides south of Laclede to Chouteau. Perhaps the most galling problem is the double-decker interstate that cuts right through the middle of the area.

Imagine being in a wheelchair, or even maybe a little less mobile than the average person, and walking through this mess of broken cement and weeds at the corner of Forest Park Avenue and Grand. For the residents of Council Plaza, the majority elderly or wheelchair-bound, this is not a theoretical exercise, it is reality.

Then, after you somehow manage to cross over the broken pavement, you’re faced with the overpass over the traffic sewer that Forest Park Avenue is at Grand. Pedestrians hate the roar of traffic, and avoid areas where they’re subjected to it.

Do you remember when Highway 40 only went under Grand? Already, in the 1960’s, streets were being designed to move cars, not people.

Nowadays, you are faced with the double-decker interstate at the same spot, with the claustrophobic west-bounds lanes above you…

…and the east-bound lanes roaring by below you. It’s not surprising that the Fox Theater doesn’t recommend its patrons take Metrolink, located south of the interstate to evening shows. A little known fact: Highway 40 follows the path of the old Market Street through this area. If you look closely at some of the buildings through the area, you can see storefronts facing the highway.

When I visited Council Plaza, while gazing at the buildings, I couldn’t help but notice all of the people sitting around inside the complex, almost like they were prisoners. I don’t blame them; take a walk up Grand from the interstate sometime and imagine doing it in a wheelchair, or with a walker.

I think it is a social crime that American society has gotten to the point where its elderly and disabled are warehoused away in an isolated apartment complex, removed from everyday society and the benefits social interactions provide to the psyche.

A first step would be to fill in the underpass for Forest Park Avenue under Grand; the bridge is deteriorating and will need to be replaced soon. Why not fill it in and create a humane, pedestrian-friendly intersection? I frequently use Forest Park Avenue, and I would be fine with having my trip extended by 30 seconds at a traffic light at Grand, just so this intersection could reflect the energy so long suppressed in this area.

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