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Monday, October 26, 2009

St. Louis gets more national attention

St. Louis ' efforts to make its streets more friendly to modes of transportation other than cars and trucks are getting more national attention.

On top of its recognition last week by the League of American Bicyclists as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community, The Architect's Newspaper and Wired's Autopia have recognized efforts by Great Streets St. Louis  to bring the Complete Streets concept to the South Grand business district.

Great Streets St. Louis is an initiative by the East-West Council of Governments, a region planning agency that serves the St. Louis Metropolitan Area, to "trigger economic and social benefits by centering communities around interesting, lively and attractive streets that serve all modes of transportation."

Autopia reported that about $2.7 million in federal stimulus funds have been earmarked for the project. The new design reduces four traffic lanes to three, changes the timing of traffic lights, adds curb “bulb-outs” to reduce the amount of yardage pedestrians need to cross from 56 to 40 feet, and increases lighting and landscaping.

South Grand, the test site, is a busy street lined with restaurants and shops. But traffic, signage, and aging infrastructure have been a problem. Drivers routinely speed, and the street saw 80 accidents and one pedestrian death in the first eight months of 2009, according to The Architect's Newspaper

Although the city's Bike St. Louis routes do not use South Grand between Arsenal and Utah streets, where the work is taking place, it goes nearby. The changes especially are intended to help pedestrians in the business district, but I'm sure it will benefit cyclists as well.

After a test run of the new street configuration this year, Alderman Steve Conway says the feedback he's received has been running 10-to-1 in favor of the changes.

“I was concerned about getting 25,000 cars a day through at Grand and Arsenal,” Conway told The Architect's Newspaper.. “And now, we’re getting the cars through, and we’ve slowed the traffic.”

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