Renderings from Cortex to Tower Grove Connector (2019)
Updated May 12, 2020
This May, the Cortex-Tower Grove Connector cleared an important hurdle towards construction. The East-West Gateway Council of Governments’ Technical Planning Committee approved the staff recommendation of $5.59 million for federal construction funding.
Part of this success was the overwhelming support from the community. Thank you to everyone who weighed in with public comments on this project. Out of 97 project applications across 8 counties, this protected bike lane and crosswalk improvements accounted for more than 90% of all public comments. That’s thanks to your action and commitment to safer infrastructure.
This vital connection is one of the busiest bike routes in the region and these safety upgrades will create dedicated, protected space for people who bike, and can hopefully be a template for future projects.
The next step for this funding is a final vote from the East-West Gateway board this August. This is a long, slow process but thank you for your dedication and support!
CORTEX TO TOWER GROVE CONNECTOR
Together with the City of St. Louis and other partners, we’ve developed this $9.3 million project and applied for a $6.5 million federal grant. This combination of public and private dollars would fund a two-way protected bike lane along Tower Grove Ave. and Vandeventer Ave. with additional bike and crosswalk improvements along Tower Grove ave and Sarah.
At every step along the way, our staff has been meeting with city officials, developers, community non-profits, neighborhood associations and other stakeholders. This was only possible through your generosity.
The Cortex to Tower Grove Connector would upgrade one of the busiest bike routes in the city, connect more people to Metro Link and make riding and walking along this route safer for people of all ages and abilities.
This grant is part of the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program from the US Department of Transportation. This is a competitive grant aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving environmental air quality. We will likely know this June if this project is recommended for funding with a final grant decision in August.
THIS STARTED WITH YOU AND IT TAKES TIME.
Five years ago we surveyed our members to find out what would make you feel safe and comfortable riding bikes in St. Louis. Overwhelmingly, Trailnet members supported a connected network of protected bike lanes.
This led to the two-year Connecting St. Louis project that engaged 4,000 individuals in our community and 60 partners groups to identify the areas of greatest need for on-street bike improvements. Your support made this process possible.
As a result of all that community input, we published a network of recommended protected bike lanes, bike routes with traffic calming infrastructure and policy recommendations. These route and policy recommendations have been our roadmap for pushing the City and community partners to improve biking and walking infrastructure.
Following this roadmap and the priorities of members like you, we held meetings over the last year-and-a-half with aldermen, the streets department, community members and more to assemble support for these corridors, with Tower Grove Ave. as a key priority.
DESIGN AND TRADEOFFS
The proposed Cortex to Tower Grove Connector is the result of blending ideal bike infrastructure designs with the real-world restrictions of the space, existing needs and cost.
Currently, Tower Grove Ave (between Tower Grove Park and Vandeventer) has two lanes of car traffic, two painted bike lanes, and two lanes of parking heading north and south.
The proposed design – subject to change with additional engineering and final design – would shift both bike lanes to the west side of the street as a two-way protected bike lane, paralleling the park and continuing north. It would then shift to the east side of the street at the McRee intersection, with special traffic signals, and continue north to Vandeventer. At Vandeveter the protected bike lane would then continue on the east side of Vandevener up to Sarah, where it would shift back to the west side of the road. The route would then continue north, switching to a Calm Streets style treatment, North of Forest Park Parkway.
This two-way protected bike lane creates separate space for people riding bikes from car traffic and people walking on the sidewalk. Along with the physical barrier between bike and car traffic, this project also includes intersection and traffic signal upgrades, accounting for bike traffic, high-visibility crosswalks for people on foot, and a fiber-optic connection between each traffic light, allowing for the signals to be optimized to improve the flow of traffic.
Existing infrastructure, rain-water management, parking, construction costs, building standards, and numerous other competing factors lead to this current design. The two-way protected bike lane was chosen as a compromise between maintaining parking and car traffic lanes along the route. This kind of consensus and user-focused design is only possible when committed advocates like our staff work with engineers, stakeholders and neighbors to balance everyone’s needs while shepherding this project along from its initial conception.
Thank you for enabling us to do this work.
We are confident that the Cortex to Tower Grove Connector is a strong candidate for federal funding. Following a final approval of funding in August, this project would then undergo a professional engineering study designing specific intersection and route improvements tailoring it to the needs of people who bike, walk, use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. This step could take up to a year, followed by another year of environmental review. Barring, potential delays, construction on this project could begin in 2022 or 2023.
This is an undoubtedly long and slow process, as are most infrastructure projects, however we are committed to follow this at every step along the way, ensuring it meets the needs of people of all ages and abilities.
Time is the most important tool to building streets for all people, and while we wish we could snap our fingers and start building, this patient advocacy and accountability are key to building a region where biking and walking are a way of life.
We owe enormous thanks also to our committed partners: City of St. Louis Government, Arch to Park, Missouri Botanical Garden, Cortex Innovation Community, Alderwoman Annie Rice, Alderwoman Marlene Davis, Alderman Joe Roddy, Park Central Development, Tower Grove Park, Tower Grove Neighborhoods CDC, Lochmueller Group, DTLS Landscape Architecture, SWT Design, BJC HealthCare, Washington University in St. Louis, and MoDOT – St. Louis.