There was a time when driving in downtown St. Louis by the riverfront was a mess. The engineers that designed the highways back in the 50’s didn’t take into account all of the congestion that would be caused by the Arch and all the traffic that would be trying to get across the river into Illinois.
All the major highways that run through St. Louis, (Highways 40, 44, and 70), converge there in one spot and that makes for a traffic nightmare. When you have a limited amount of space and try to jam all that highway into it, it just doesn’t work very well.
All of the highways collide with Memorial Drive, the street that runs alongside the Arch and the roads turn into a tangled mess of spaghetti. And the signs are confusing as well. It seems like there are a million of them. There are also a lot of exits into Illinois, but if you miss one of them then you are stuck in a continuous circle until you can figure your way out.
At one time the area was the scene of a lot of accidents as some brilliant monkey got the idea to install reversible lanes on Highway 70. Imagine tooling along at 60 miles an hour and suddenly realizing that you are going the wrong way because the lanes have reversed.
There’s also all of the overpasses to contend with. They arch and soar off into space and you honestly don’t know if the roadway is going to just end abruptly or not. I remember trying to get back from the east side one time after dark. It was early evening and it was already dark. There was a lot of traffic. And let’s just say that the drivers down there during rush hour are not very accommodating.
You had to make a sudden three lane change once you got over the bridge. If you missed your turn, then the damn highway would take you back over the bridge again into Illinois. I must have crossed that bridge at least three times because the other drivers wouldn’t let me over. Finally I had to just close my eyes and change lanes. Fortunately nobody hit me.
Now, according to the St. Louis Front Page, some $5 million of the stimulus money has been earmarked to finish a complete renovation of highway 70 in that area. There are also funds there to build a park around the Arch, like it was originally intended. One idea is to cover up the highway completely and allow people to walk around on top of it.
They will never be able to rearrange the highways down there to accumulate all of the traffic. There’s just not enough room. But the renovation project, while causeing a traffic nightmare during construction, is a start.