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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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One comment

  1. More pictures here:

    http://stlouispatina.blogspot.com/2009/01/tucker-tunnel.html



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