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Monday, January 23, 2006

New Bridge Coul Widen the Gap

In a St. Clair County Journal article discussing the possibility of tolls being imposed on the proposed Mississippi River Bridge, mayors and alderpersons of several different Illinois cities were quoted, and all favor the new bridge. The mayor of Granite City, Ed Hagnauer, thinks that the new bridge will bring Missourians into Illinois.

One city rarely mentioned in discussions of the new bridge, and without an elected leader quoted in the article, is East St. Louis. Perhaps this neglect is due to the fact that new bridge has no real physical connection with East St. Louis, and will instead divert I-70 from even passing through the old city. The new bridge's backers tout the economic growth it will bring to Illinois, but overlook or dismiss the inequity such growth will bring. Cities farther east, liked Edwardsville and Collinsville will benefit greatly from a quick route connecting their new strip malls and office parks to the moneyed residents of St. Charles County. This economic flow will miss older cities close to the river, like East St. Louis and even Granite City -- cities that face depopulation, widespread poverty and a lack of economic growth. The bridge will allow the haves to gorge on growth while ensuring that have-nots continue to remain economically malnourished. It will carry people over the old cities and their minority populations, just as the highways built in the late twentieth century did for larger cities.

Proponents of the bridge dodge the issue. The bridge will spread the sprawl eastward, and balance out the effect of the far-west suburban growth in St. Charles and Warren counties. But it will be creating a distribution pattern resembling a donut, fueling new growth on the edges of the east side's developed area instead of helping redensify the inner core of east side cities.

East St. Louis is left out, again. Why not? Dealing with its problems is too difficult and requires careful, long-term action. Preventing exurban growth requires strong will on the part of politicians, who would have to tell their big-bucks backers "no." Building a bridge gives everyone a relatively quick dose of what they want: faster profits on new east side development, a short-term decrease in commute time between far suburbs in Illinois and Missouri and a fancy new structure to experience from a car.


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Anonymous said...

Since when does the new bridge connect to St. Charles County?

And I think East St. Louis was already passed up when the Poplar was built, with this added bridge neither really helping or hurting ESL's already bypassed condition.

Michael Allen said...

The bridge would make I-70 a clear, straight route that would provide a connection between St. Charles County and Madison and St. Clair counties -- with minimal connection to "bad" places like East St. Louis. Sure, I-270 makes a similar connection but the Mississippi River Bridge will create another one.

Anonymous said...

The sprawling places of the Metro East that trouble you are already served by I-270 as their "shot" to St. Charles. This new bridge would require folks from the bluffs to go through Brooklyn/Madison and North City. While some might take such route to the airport, going from Collinsville to St. Peters via the new bridge is not a common scenario.

Clearly, the new bridge favors the Metro East commuter destined for downtown St. Louis. And though you don't want to see folks from the bluffs bypassing the river bottoms of the Metro East, they already do with current routes.

But many of our region's leaders, especially those in the City and Illinois, also don't want to see Downtown continue its loss of employment to points west. Therefore, this new bridge encourages employers to locate where labor accessibility will remain highest.

Anonymous said...

I have a wager to propose:

Which will be completed first:

The new Mississippi River Bridge?


The "Lid" over the depressed lanes?

Give points in terms of years advantage for one project over the other...

And, predict the over/under for the total number of years to complete both projects.