Update: The bridge was opened with a new design in January 2014. Most of the above MoDoT links are now dead. This post is now largely irrelevant.
Well, as it turns out, they’re going to build a new I-70 bridge across the Mississippi River north of downtown. The question that arises now is: how will it affect the Old North St. Louis neighborhood and the Near North Riverfront. And furthermore, how much of the plans on the official website are still accurate, considering the bridge has gone from 8 lanes to 4 (with 2 additional lanes for a later date)?
Through the use of published official plans and bird’s eye satellite images, we can get a bit of an impression of how the bridge will affect the Missouri side of the construction. Let’s first talk about the St. Louis approaches to the bridge east of I-70. As can be seen in this image, there really is not much in the way for a new bridge when you look at the land acquisition map; there’s a couple of really deteriorated buildings that are in the way. I will say, I don’t like how there will be a hulking interstate overpass looming over North Broadway; they have a nasty habit of killing pedestrian traffic. Admittedly, North Broadway at this location is largely industrial, but still.
What is more troubling is the street connection that heads out in a perpendicular fashion from the existing I-70 right of way and spills out onto Cass Ave; essentially people crossing the bridge who go straight will find themselves in the street grid of North Downtown. You can see an image here of the areas targeted for demolition for this portion here. I hate these street-to-interstate connections; having lived in Baltimore, I can tell you that streets surrounding such connections as planned for St. Louis are a disaster, crowded with hotheads trying to get onto the interstate while driving at interstate speeds. Here is what I’m talking about in Baltimore.
What does interest me is the possibility, however small, is that reasonable leaders might actually argue for the removal of the portion of I-70 south of the new bridge and north of the Poplar Street Bridge interchange. This section, which apparently would be added to a newly lengthened I-44, has long been a source of civic shame, cutting the Arch grounds off from downtown St. Louis. At the very least, the northbound ramp from westbound Poplar Street Bridge traffic should be removed, forcing I-70 traffic across the new bridge and cutting down on a major source of congestion on the old interstate bridge, seen here. Then they would just have to come up with a solution for the asinine exit for southbound I-55…