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Bike paths, street cars, sidewalks: St. Louis wish list for transportation tax funds

Bike paths, street cars, sidewalks: St. Louis wish list for transportation tax funds


ST. LOUIS • Bike paths. Streetcars. Sidewalks.

That’s the wish list released on Monday by Mayor Francis Slay, meeting a state deadline to submit projects for the proposed sales tax to fund transportation projects.

The city’s list of $268 million in projects is a dramatic shift from most other places in the state, a wish list that focuses on pedestrians and less on building more highways and bridges.

“Only 25 percent of it goes to old-fashioned roads and bridges,” said Jeff Rainford, Slay’s chief of staff.

The goal is to make the city less car-centric — an effort that has lured younger, progressive residents to cities like Portland, Ore., San Francisco and New York.

Mayor Francis Slay, who supports the tax, said it would be the first time more pedestrian-friendly initiatives could be funded with transportation tax money. The state’s gasoline tax, for example, is limited to roads and bridges.

“Missouri transportation policy hasn’t changed until now,” Slay said. He asserted that the plan would make St. Louis a better place for people to live, work and play, without the need for a car.

Many of the proposed projects focus on bike paths, MetroLink access and a streetcar initiative that would link downtown to the Central West End.

Still, the city’s wish list does include money for roads and highways, including a $25 million project to construct a 22nd Street interchange that would help connect Paul McKee’s NorthSide regeneration project.

Gov. Jay Nixon recently set the Aug. 5 election as the date voters would consider a sales tax increase of three-quarters of a cent, sending county governments scrambling to produce project proposals that would potentially be funded by it.

If approved, the money would be available in 2015. The city estimates it would get about $250 million over 10 years. The state ultimately would decide which projects are approved for funding.

On Monday, the city outlined a series of projects, including big-ticket items such as:

• $35 million to fund the St. Louis Streetcar system.

• $25 million to construct a new 22nd Street interchange.

• $14 million for improvements at the Delmar/Forest Park-DeBaliviere MetroLink station, including the installation of multi-use paths.

• $14 million for improvements that would make the area around Forest Park Parkway and Vandeventer more pedestrian-friendly.

• $8 million for Laclede’s Landing improvements and pedestrian connections under the Martin Luther King Bridge.

• $7 million for Tucker Boulevard improvements, including lane reductions from Washington Avenue to Spruce, protected bike lanes and reduced pedestrian crossing distances.

Many believe the tax increase is a long shot.

“I don’t think it takes a political genius to realize this is a difficult one to win,” Rainford said.

In the city, it would take the sales tax from 8.679 percent to 9.429 percent.

Last week, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, who is facing a tough primary fight, criticized the proposed tax.

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Nicholas J.C. Pistor is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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