Somebody recently asked me why I support construction of a new Mississippi River Bridge in St. Louis. Such a span, said the person, would only make it easier to continue the residential sprawl that has scattered the region’s population miles from the City. And with the same transportation money, the region could rethink and rebuild its shrinking bus routes to support workers and employers in the urban core.
I agree that the public transportation needs more thought — and more money. But, I still support the new bridge.
The new bridge will make it easier for commuters to get into and out of Downtown. That will help us grow Downtown, which is important because Downtown is our City’s and our region’s central business district.
I also believe that by opening more of Southern Illinois to development, the new bridge will shift the economic hub of the region east towards our City. That is a very good thing for us. Anything that grows our region’s economy will be good for the City, too. If the region adds 100,000 new jobs, we will get our fair share.
Finally, I know that our success as a City is never going to hinge on making it more difficult to leave the urban center nor harder to live in the suburbs. Rather, we will succeed or fail as a growing City based upon our ability to give new employers, young families, immigrants, business travelers, empty nesters, students, and tourists the reasons to come to us.
To me, that means encouraging the things that make us different from other places: our neighborhoods, our ethnic and social diversity, our universities, our tolerance, our cultural institutions, our Downtown, our public celebrations, our Riverfront . . .
If we concentrate on doing those things well, a new bridge will just make it easier for more people to come here.