Gustine & Utah - Tower Grove South

Over a month ago mystifying work began at Gustine and Utah here in TGS. That's Susie G. in the hat on the left hand side:
At a recent TGS neighborhood meeting I asked J-FLo about the work and she explained it was designed to make the intersection 'pedestrian friendly' and that the ADA ramps cost 4,000.00 each.

The site was the subject of conversation over dinner this weekend with a few of my neighbors and continued on our neighborhood list serve where it developed into a raucous brawl.

I lived a block away from the intersection as a child and crossed it daily as a teenager. I never had a problem on the walk to high school and have always enjoyed the street scape when I wasn't spying on bricks.

I'm a preservationist so this New and Improved intersection gave me the willies:

Then I read Kevin Neill's post:

I think the intersection looks much better than before, for a number of reasons: the pedestrian crosswalks are clearly identifiable with the pseudo-brick paving; the curb ramps have been modified to meet ADA standards; the planters separate the pedestrian crossing from the u-turn traffic on Utah and the through lanes on Gustine, while also provide an additional level of psychological safety for those crossing Utah on the east side of Gustine - a crossing that is over 100 feet from curb to curb; and there is opportunity for collision between pedestrians and traffic southbound Gustine traffic turning left on Utah. And when the planters are filled, I bet it will look a lot better.

I've looked around on the city's website to see what funds are being used for
this project. While I couldn't find the intersection listed specifically, my
guess is that this is stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act. $2,575,000 has been procured for "overlay and pedestrian improvements."
These projects are used for:

- overlay of new sidewalk/street pavement;
- reconstruction of curb ramps;
- improvements compliant with ADA standards;

and to "enhance safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles."

Considering the time constraints involved with this funding source, I'm glad to see the city was able to get some of this highly competitive ARRA money to implement projects like this, which improve pedestrian conditions and create infrastructure that is accessible people of all abilities. If Saint Louis couldn't have identified shovel ready projects like this as quickly enough as they did, the funding would've gone to the next city in line.

(Reprinted with permission)

I'm still ambivalent but was impressed with his research and feel for the site.

Josh Heisler commented:

The project, according to my alderwoman, cost $40,000. I don't know what qualifies as informed so I'll render my informed / uninformed opinion. I may be mistaken, but the intersection already had ramp access so, in my opinion, the ADA argument is not a valid reason for the upgrade. Also, beautification has been proposed as a reason or at least a result of the upgrade but the beautification has happened on a block that is one of the most, if not the most expensive in the neighborhood and arguably one of the prettiest, so while I agree that neighborhood beautification is commendable the result, when compared to other options, may not have yielded the best value for users and the community.

Finally, as to "slap[ping] some paint on it"; In my experience, the painted crosswalk, a la Abbey Road album cover, is a far more urban indicator of a crosswalk than a planter and some textured concrete or pavers. I'm not saying that the pavers, curbs and planters don't do the job it just seems very suburban to me. If the motivation for the project was to rectify the "problems" that some pedestrians had at the intersection there may have been more economical options.

I agree with Josh, it does have suburb styling. Tower Grove Heights is a historic district. I guess it doesn't include the streets.

It's interesting to me that this corner is also the site of the several unsold Capistrano condos.

Turn around and 'brick' walk:


Bad Tim said...

egad! is that bowmanite? there's nothing like brick laid out like no mason would lay it to say 'welcome to the suburbs'.

i hope they at least had the decency to dye the concrete in the batch rather than surface apply the color, but alas, i fear i hope too much.

in a few years, it'll be a pocked eyesore.

Anonymous said...

I live near this intersection and cross it at least 10 times a week on foot. While some seem aggrieved by the type of brick used, to me the only mystery is why this extremely wide, dangerous intersection went so long without access ramps and a center walkway protected by the median and planter. It is a vast improvement in terms of both safety and aesthetics. Thanks to all who are responsible for getting it done.

Christian Herman said...

I disagree that it's an aesthetic improvement and assert it's in conflict with a designated historic neighborhood.
Access ramps have existed at that intersection for decades.