Posts Tagged ‘Tunnel’


Seattle’s Pedestrian Master Plan

July 1, 2011

I’ve spent the last week or so in Seattle, and have been extremely impressed with the city.  Seattle’s Central City is a continuous, walkable urban environment, that is unlike the vast majority of American cities I’ve been to.  In Seattle, the “inner-city” is a truly desirable place to be (as it should be).  Although it is not completly free of empty storefronts and surface parking lots, when compared to a place like St. Louis these underused spaces are a non-issue.

Seattle has its problems too

I am aware that Seattle and St. Louis have more differences than similarities, but I disagree with those who say we have nothing to learn from a city so dissimilar.  Seattle’s Metropolitan Area is not significantly larger than St. Louis’ (only having recently surpassed us), but it has the resources to experiment.  We need to be paying attention to even our more distant peers if we want to stay competitive.

Section of Chinatown cut off from Downtown by Interstate 5

Seattle has made many of the same mistakes that St. Louis has.  They have an interstate highway running through their downtown.  They have two major sports stadiums that take up superblocks and are surrounded by underused parking garages in a historic district.  At the same time, they value good urban design and the pedestrian experience.  For me, Seattle has many new ideas to offer.  Good ideas.  One big one that struck me is the Downtown Transit Tunnel.

The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel

Seattle’s Light Rail runs through Downtown in a tunnel, but the tracks run on a paved, flat surface that is also used by buses.  This is brilliant for many reasons (it keeps you out of both traffic and the rain), and is a flexible infrastructure investment.  My one complaint is that you aren’t allowed to simply walk across the tracks to the other platform to change directions.

Illegal to Cross

As convenient as being able to walk across the tracks would be for an urban explorer and photographer like myself, walking up and over is a small sacrifice for us to make on behalf of public safety.  The City of Seattle actually cares about pedestrians and their safety, and it shows.  Little details can make big differences.  This year Seattle was recognized as the most “walk-friendly” city in the country by the NRDC, and in the City’s Pedestrian Master Plan, Seattle declares that it wants to truly become the most walkable city in the nation.

Alternatives to the Car

Featuring before and after photos of transformed sidewalks that would be sure to make Steve Patterson proud, the Pedestrian Master Plan’s website lays out a detailed plan with ambitious goals that focus on the pedestrian experience.  It outlines the benefits of walking and the responsibility of the city to encourage and to facilitate alternatives to personal automobiles.

Seattle has a Large Network of Trolley Buses

I think that the City of St. Louis can learn from cities like Seattle.  Our problems are not unique to the rust belt, and their solutions might found if the time was spent creating something like a master plan.  We have a long way to go before we can even compete in a walkable city competition, but we need to start with a coherent (unlike many of my blog posts – Sorry!) and comprehensive plan.  Let’s start Downtown and connect our neighborhoods to one another.  Otherwise newer, faster growing cites like Seattle will leave us in the dust.  Or in the fumes of our own exhaust.


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.


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
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!