Tomorrow morning, I am going to meet with Pete Rahn, the director of MoDOT, about the construction of I-64 and a plan to accommodate traffic.
Here is what I am going to tell him:
The City supports the highway project;
We want the highway built as efficiently as possible - without disrupting our economy, and without unduly and unnecessarily inconveniencing motorists;
We think the impact on traffic and on our economy is as important as building it on time and on budget.
I’m not sure how MoDOT got where it is now: further ahead on the construction than on the planning for the construction’s effects. It does not make much sense if a bad traffic plan costs the region’s economy more than it saves MoDOT. The medicine cannot be worse than the disease.
I am concerned that just talking about traffic nightmares has already worried businesses on both sides of the construction site - and that location and expansion decisions are being made by executives based upon worries about a possible closure. In this case, the fear of the project may already be doing as much harm as the project ever could.
So, I am going to ask Pete to take the option of shutting down the highway off the table once and for all. Why keep talking about an option you are never going to be able to use?
I am also going to ask Pete for his commitment to work with us on a traffic plan that makes sense. The City and the Downtown Partnership are raising money from stakeholders to hire experts to identify, quantify, and articulate the interests of commuters, workers, residents, businesses, hospitals, and emergency responders. With the help of our experts, MoDOT will be able to write traffic standards into the RFP.
And, I have - in case all reason fails - drafted a resolution for the Board of Aldermen opposing the closing of the highway.
I am sure that there is a traffic solution Pete can live with, especially for the Downtown business and recreational districts. (Remember, there are lots of other ways to get into Downtown: I-70, I-44, I-55, Manchester, Delmar, Gravois, Forest Park Parkway . . . We have viable options.) We need to get these solutions into MoDOT’s planning.
I’ll report on the meeting.