Officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the start of the aptly named "Park Over the Highway" plan in St. Louis, Missouri earlier this month. The plan's objective is to connect the iconic Gateway Arch grounds and Downtown St. Louis by building a park over the Interstate-70, which has divided the city from the Mississippi waterfront for the past 50 years. Last month, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) awarded KCI Construction Company $26.4 million to begin construction. The project is expected to be done by Fall 2015.
As depicted in the rendering above, the extensive renovation project also involves re-routing roads, laying groundwork pedestrian and bike paths, and general enhancement of the landscape.
Funds for the entire $380 million plan came from public sources like federal grants and a voter-approved local sales tax as well as private contributions from major supporters like the CityArchRiver foundation.
U.S. Transportation officials like Secretary Anthony Foxx have an optimistic outlook for the plan. They expect it will improve the area without causing significant environmental impact among other factors like creating jobs and increasing access for locals and tourists. Officials also think it can become a model for other U.S. cities with similar interstate layouts.
Depending on how you perceive the plan's local nickname "the lid," some local observers see the project as superfluous and would make no real improvement. Grassroot efforts argue that the elevated section of the I-70 should be removed altogether and replaced with the construction of grade-level boulevards that would directly integrate the town and its waterfront. MoDOT saw rerouting that section of the interstate as a possibility and conducted studies in mid 2012. But after delayed results and running out of funds, the study was put on hold -- if not completely stopped.
As stated by MoDOT, the Park Over the Highway plan doesn't have the interstate's removal on its agenda for specific reasons, primarily because it fulfills the city's basic objective to facilitate access to the Arch grounds. However, officials would reconsider the I-70's removal if it becomes a pressing regional priority. As for now, there seems to be widespread support for the Park Over the Highway.
Is the plan a good idea or is building a boulevard a better option? Share your thoughts in the comments below.