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St. Louis County to develop a “County Connector”

12 September 2009 1,057 views No Comment

St. Louis County officials say a road similar to the Forest Park Parkway could help link Clayton and south St. Louis County and considerably ease traffic congestion.

One possibility for that kind of road would connect Laclede Station Road in Maplewood with River des Peres Boulevard in St. Louis, officials have said.

The county on Tuesday received proposals from eight national consulting companies for a study that could lead to a “South County Connector.” The selected consultant would look at that idea — and others — to find the best way to move people through an area generally along Hanley and Laclede Station Roads from Highway 40 to Interstate 55.

The study would take about a year, Garry Earls, the county’s chief operating officer, said Thursday. The county’s request for proposals said the consultant would have until Jan. 1, 2013 to complete an environmental assessment of any proposed project. The county hopes to pick the consultant by Oct. 6 and have the company under contract by the end of the year.

Earls did not estimate when the county would build the improvements the consultant would suggest. The request for proposal said the consultant should estimate the construction cost in 2015 dollars.

“The easy answer is extending Interstate 170 south, but I don’t think it is going to happen in a 100 years,” Earls said. “But we have to do something about the high level of traffic.”

The consultant could suggest a route for the connection between River des Peres Boulevard and Laclede Station Road, Earls said. It could go next to the Shrewsbury MetroLink station and the old Laclede Gas storage tank property possibly to join Laclede Station Road at the west end of the Deer Creek shopping center, he said.

The connector, Earls said, may not be the only answer. Rebuilt Highway 40 includes a much expanded interchange with Big Bend Boulevard, he said. It may encourage some motorists to use Big Bend to get to the Clayton area and ease traffic on Hanley Road, he said.

County Executive Charlie Dooley “wants to connect South County with the central corridor, where the center of the economy is,” Earls said. “We need a better corridor,” he said.

“Eight percent of the county’s land area accounts for one-third of the county’s economy,” he said. South St. Louis County is a huge bedroom community whose residents should be able to participate easily in that economy, he said.

The area Earls mentions is Clayton, Richmond Heights, Ladue, Brentwood, Frontenac and Westwood.

The corridor needs a better connection with Interstate 44, he said.

The study would consider the movement of local trucks, bicyclists and pedestrians, he said. The consultant’s recommendations would reduce traffic congestion, improve safety and get cars out of smaller streets, he said. He did not have an estimate of the study’s cost.

Companies submitting proposals are PB with CH2MHill, HNTB, URS, Mactec, Hanson, Jacobs, TransSystems and Crawford, Murphy, Tilley.

In March, 1997, the late St. Louis County Executive George “Buzz” Westfall withdrew his support for an extension of I-170 south of Highway 40, essentially killing the $600 million project. Residents along the expansion corridor from Richmond Heights to Mehlville strongly opposed the proposal. Construction since 1997 in the potential route “rendered that extension unfeasible,” the county’s request for proposal said.

By Phil Sutin

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