In the past year, urban sprawl has been the subject of
increasing public comment and analysis. More groups are forming to
study its impact. Legislation was introduced in the Missouri
General Assembly to deal with it. The East-West Gateway
Coordinating Council, the Regional Commerce & Growth Association
and the Peirce Report all have expressed concern about it.
Those who benefit from development try to downplay its negative
aspects. Those hurt by it are organizing to demand action. As
subregional players prepare to put on the boxing gloves, the
maturity of the region will be tested.
Is there a need for a new evaluation of the region's growth
pattern? Can interests that appear to be at odds come together?
Let's start with some understanding of trends. Since 1970, the
population of the region has not changed; it has shifted. There are
211,000 more people living in St. Charles, Jefferson and Franklin
County now and 225,000 less in the city of St. Louis.
Reasons for the shift are varied: a desire for a new home, low
tolerance for those of a different race or class, fear of
neighborhood trends, hopes for better schools or less crime.
Perhaps more than anything else, its a lack of policies promoting a
"can do" attitude toward neighborhood preservation. These factors
begin the cycle of population shift. Some policies, particularly
transportation policy, then add fuel to the fire by supporting the
A cursory review of highway decisions demonstrates the problem.
Since 1978, the nine bridge lanes serving St. Charles County have
increased to 20. The Page Avenue Bridge will bring the total to 30.
Interstate 55 serving Jefferson County has been widened to 10
lanes. I-44 serving Franklin County has also been widened.
The interstate interchanges with I-270 have been or are being
rebuilt at huge expense. I-70 west of 270 has been widened into St.
Charles. A new I-370 bridge and highway extend west to St. Peters.
Developers are seeking Highway 40 modernization in St. Charles and
Page Avenue extended to Lake St. Louis. The list of major expansion
projects outside I-270 could go on and on.
What about projects inside I-270? I-70 is falling apart. The
section in Cool Valley is a death trap. The Highway 40 interchanges
are still 1950 vintage. Access to downtown from the established
Bellefontaine-Spanish Lake area is poor. No attempts have been made
to build more acceptable, modest linkages between South County and
Clayton. Few improvements have been made to state highways like
Page, Olive, Lindbergh, Gravois, St. Charles Rock Road or Natural
Bridge inside of I-270.
Why has our state highway policy abandoned preservation and
modernization in established areas? No recent governor has
appointed a Missouri Highway commissioner from inside the I-270