Posts Tagged ‘Tucker’

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Light Rail in Denver and Salt Lake City

September 5, 2010

I recently spent some time in both Denver and Salt Lake City, both places that have many examples of urban planning successes and failures that serve as great learning experiences.  Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Salt Lake’s “The Gateway” and City Creek Center developments represent large downtown projects worthy of serious study.  One thing that all three of these developments have in common is the fact that they are served by light rail that runs on city streets.  Both light rail systems are also very similar to ours in St. Louis (we use Siemens SD-400 and SD-460, while Denver and Salt Lake both use the SD-100 and SD-160).  The main difference between St. Louis’ Metrolink and TheRide in Denver/UTA Trax in Salt Lake City is the height of the platforms and the lack of a dedicated right of way (at least in the center city).  Because the platforms are basically just the sidewalks in Denver or sidewalk-like medians in Salt Lake, entering the train requires walking up steps (like getting onto the bus).  To accommodate people with disabilities or parents with strollers, etc.,  both systems have ramps leading up to elevated platforms at the front of each train.

18th and California Station - Denver, Colorado

The elevated section of the platform can be seen towards the back of the above photo.  Below is a picture of a UTA Trax Train approaching a platform, with the accessible section towards the lower right of the photo.

UTA Trax Train in Downtown Salt Lake City

A view from the platform itself provides a better idea of how this raised section really works.

UTA Trax Accessible Train Entry

Seeing this system firsthand was a really good experience for me, because it served as confirmation that a new  Metrolink lines could run right down the middle (or edges) of our excessively wide avenues in St. Louis.  In particular, the new North-South line could run through downtown on Tucker (12th Street) and extend South along Gravois (which Tucker turns into) and North along N. Florissant (which Tucker also turns into).  On the North side, the line could make a Westward turn onto Natural Bridge from N. Florissant to provide a more central route.  Because Tucker is currently being torn up and replaced just North of Downtown, this would be a great place (and time) to begin the project.  The route could connect to the existing Metrolink line with a Viaduct stop similar to the Grand Station, or riders could simply walk the two blocks to 14th street or the 4 blocks to 8th street to change lines.  Maybe it could be the Green Line!

Possible Future Metrolink Map?

I know this idea is not by any means new, and a similar route is what most of us have been hoping we’ll get in the near future (particularly since the passage of Prop A), but I really think that this line on existing city streets would be most affordable, and would have the potential to do the most good.  Extending Metrolink along Highway 55 is silly to me, because the areas around the highway are not pedestrian friendly.  Gravois could really use some pedestrian activity to activate businesses that already exist and create a demand for more businesses along this street which essentially serves as a high speed thruway.   The addition of light rail to this corridor will also reduce the auto traffic.

On the North side this line would serve as a much needed catalyst to spur development along the largely abandoned shoulders of N. Florissant (many of which are clean slates for new construction) and would also connect the steadily improving Old North St. Louis neighborhood with Downtown.  Although Buses will remain the centerpiece of our regional transportation system, expanding our light rail increases the visibility of transit, the likelihood that it will be used, and that the neighborhoods it serves will be explored.

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Tucker Tunnel Update

March 22, 2010

I’m sure everyone has been kicked out of the Tucker Tunnel for a while now, but just today I went down to check it out.  Tucker was being worked on above and below ground in several places making it now much more clearly an unsafe living place.

Workers underneath Tucker

Above ground Interco plaza wasn’t looking too different, but there is currently a port-a-potty in the park notifying its reader that the city will no longer put people’s belongings into a trash compactor.  I’d call this a good sign.

Public Notice in Interco Plaza

Anyway, as much as I have been facinated by the mere existance of the Tucker Tunnel, this part of Downtown is in such terrible shape that I can’t wait to see what the area looks like after getting a fresh start from the street rebuilding project.

I’m actually pretty excited to tell the story of the Tucker Tunnel while driving up the fresh new Boulevard in the near future.

Update:  People are still living in the tunnel as of 5/12/2010. The Post-Dispatch says that Mayor Slay wants the tunnel vacated by Friday May 14th.

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Residents of the Tucker tunnel

January 4, 2010

I just found this Post-Dispatch article dated yesterday about the homeless living underneath Tucker.  Very interesting article that (as usual) is attracting a nasty discussion in the comments.  Here are a few comment excerpts:

It is a shame we have homeless people although some prefer it that way. You can thank our greedy politicians for that though. – NeoCon Without a Party

As I wrote on another blog you PHDs out there are just a paycheck or two away from being in their predicament. Those 535 Thugs/Thugetts in congress are to blame. But “YOU PEOPLE”keep putting them back into office year after year. [...] You let as voting public, lawyers become your representatives in all aspect of government local and state or national. Have you ever meet a lawyer that was worth being a friend with. And they get to bill you without any over site and if you don’t pay they sue you and another lawyer gives them judgment and the cycle goes on. – allinman

My answer is this, deport all the illegals and give the jobs they are doing to the homeless and people on welfare. Its win win for America. – TheUnderboss

The poor,like religion and politics will always divide us…Everyone agrees what we need is more kindness in the world, however,I have found that where ever there are people that show kindness there are people right behind them condeming their acts. – Feederofthepoor

St Louis is known as a racist we have to add heartlest city,why not keep your fat lip close if you dont have nothing good to say…. – Hungman 13

I have no comment.

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Tucker Avenue Train Tunnel

December 31, 2009
I first learned of the existence of the Tucker Avenue Bridge/Tunnel when I read in the Post-Dispatch that it was going to be filled in with Styrofoam to prevent its collapse.
Foam will be used to prevent three downtown St. Louis buildings from collapsing
By Elisa Crouch
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Tuesday, May. 12 2009
ST. LOUIS — It’s been used in packing peanuts. In disposable coffee cups. And probably next year, polystyrene, commonly known as Styrofoam, will be used to prevent three downtown buildings from collapsing.City engineers are leaning toward using car-sized blocks of the material to fill in the 30-foot-tall passageway once used by freight and passenger trains. The material is sometimes substituted where soil conditions and other factors make dirt difficult to work with.

From an Urban St. Louis Message Board


Reflecting on this, I became angry with myself for not questioning why Tucker was so strangely restricted starting at Washington.  To remediate my mistake I began frantically performing Google searches in hope of learning what is under Tucker Avenue beyond what was in the article.
The space under the boulevard was dug in the 1930s by the old Illinois Terminal Railroad for electric trains carrying passengers and freight.

Initially, trains traveled through the tunnel and across the elevated bridge that crosses Interstate 70, then to the McKinley Bridge and into Illinois.  Passenger service stopped in 1958 because of competition with the automobile, according to past news reports.

In 2004, trains used the tunnel for the last time to deliver newsprint to presses at the Post-Dispatch. Only a few clues to the past remain — such as remnants of catenary wires and a small section of track.

I didn’t find much outside of message boards and blogs, but was lucky enough to find a personal account of riding these trains a woman had posted as a comment on the blog irrational extacty, along with many other very insightful comments.   I also found a video of a channel 4 report on the tunnel which was quite interesting and cited the city’s neglect for the cause of our current problems with the bridge and a Post-Dispatch blog entry with a poll.  Several local blogs have also covered this issue including UEU314 and St. Louis Patina.
The next chance I got I went to investigate the site in person.  The first piece of concrete evidence I found was in the form of a small park in terrible condition, Interco Plaza.  This “park,” between the Post-Dispatch building and the St. Patrick’s Center, is partially open to this underground world.  Peeking down under the city, I became only more curious.

Interco Plaza (from Underground)

A walk up Tucker to where it becomes 13th Street gave me a better idea of what this structure consisted of and the state that it is currently in.
Seeing that this location is a place that many people may rely on for shelter opened up an entirely unforeseen perspective to me.  How are those handling this bridge repair project going to treat the homeless?  Maybe this will be an opportunity to attempt to make up for recent failures in this arena.

Over the Edge

Personally, I hate to see existing infrastructure go to waste and would love to see this additional underground access to downtown put to use (maybe for Metrolink which I know I have heard arguments for), but I do not blame the city for its plan to fill this space in with Styrofoam.  Tucker is an important street and its current state is unacceptable.  I am mostly glad that I was able to see this for myself while it still exists.  Here is my Flickr photo set of my exploration.

Post-Dispatch Loading Docks

Today I went back to the site to get any additional information that I could, and speaking with one man I ran into under the bridge, I was able to hear the rumor first hand that the tunnel connects with other tunnels, one running to the river and one running to Union Station.  The tunnel is basically inaccessible past Convention Street though.

This is as far as you can drive under the tunnel

Happy New Year!

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