You may have heard the legend about how St. Louis missed the boat — actually, the train — in becoming a pre-eminent hub of U.S. railroad activity back in the 19th century.
Chicago seized that crown instead, and some say the rest is history.
Now a retired university teacher and Missouri native suggests that Missouri promote a mix of highway and rail investment between St. Louis and Kansas City, essentially creating an urban corridor to spawn economic development between the state's two largest cities.
In his paper released by the Show-Me Institute last week, Jerome Day envisions a corridor linked by "a high-speed, high-capacity, and robust multimodal transportation infrastructure for people and freight." Freight would move by electric-powered railroad, possibly running down the median of a new east-west highway.
Two new east-west highways should be built — one each to the north and south of Interstate 70 — linking Missouri's two most populous cities by 2050, he wrote.
Day, who now lives in New Hampshire, said he became interested in the topic while back in Missouri. He saw signs on Interstate 70 about the Missouri Department of Transportation's study looking at ways to relieve congestion on the highway.
He said it seemed like a "no-brainer" to build a new interstate highway to the north of I-70. But the state embraced a proposal to rebuild I-70 across the state and include lanes only for trucks.
"When they came out with the truck-only lanes proposal, I was a bit flabbergasted by it all," Day said.
In August 2009, the U.S. Department of Transportation approved the Missouri proposal. But state officials acknowledged then that it would be hard-pressed to find the money to take on the $3.9 billion project.
Day concludes that future transportation infrastructure and maintenance "could be financed by public-private partnerships and user fees," including tolls.
While interesting, ideas like this face some tough sledding.
Tolls have proven controversial. Buy-in from both rural and urban Missouri can be elusive. And there's still the matter of money — or lack of it.
Q. The South Grand Express bus has not been restored to service. This bus ran from St. Anthony's hospital, down Union Road in Affton over Grand to Gravois and into downtown. Prior to the cuts in March 2009, this bus serviced a large area and had plenty of passengers. Now that the bridge over Interstate 55 and Union Road has been completed, I was hoping that service would be restored. This has not happened. Currently, I must obtain a ride daily to the park-and-ride lot at Reavis and 55 to catch the I-55 Express. No more walking to the bus stop where I would catch the South Grand Express. I'm glad service has been restored on some routes, but what about others?
— Joan White, St. Louis
Metro's bus service has been largely restored to its pre-March 2009 levels. But you're right, some routes, including the South Grand Express, have not reappeared. The problem with the South Grand, as is the case with other express buses, was that it was heavily subsidized. Metro's transit operations chief Ray Friem said the bus provided "good utility" for people who rode it, but it also traversed streets that are served by other buses. Because sales taxes Metro relies on for a large share of its budget have been slack and because the agency is still acquiring more buses, it has to be judicious about restoring routes. Still, Friem added, the agency can't say there will never be another South Grand Express.
Q. I'm in my 50s. Is it reasonable to expect the Highway 40 11th Street ramp to be reopened in my lifetime?
— Ben Adams
Yes. The ramp has been closed for months because of the seismic work on the double-deck stretch of Highway 40 (Interstate 64) in downtown St. Louis. That work will continue through the end of the year. The ramp provides access to crews working on the elevated section, MoDOT officials say. The good news is that beginning this week, the 11th Street ramp will open during the morning and evening peak commute times.
Q. I work at the corner of Forest Park and Taylor. None of the buttons work to cross the street, at all four corners! Also, the walk time allowed is too short. Twice a day, I cross this intersection to go to my gym. I am unable to make it across six lanes safely and have seen handicapped people unable to as well. There are a lot of patients that cross here for the hospital and rehab center. If a healthy, in shape person such as my myself isn't able to get across, how can folks in wheelchairs, motorized or not, get across? It's impossible.
— Ann Gerbin, Affton
St. Louis Traffic Commissioner Steve Runde told Ride there was one pedestrian button missing on the west side, and it is being replaced. The city checked the pedestrian buttons on the east side, and they are working. Runde added that the city will "add walk time to make it easier to cross Forest Park." But Runde reminded pedestrians that if you have begun to cross the street, it is safe to continue when the "flashing hand" appears. Of course, you should not start crossing the street when it is flashing.