NewsThe SouthSider

Ramps at edge of Tower Grove Park to help disabled

TOWER GROVE – Everybody on the south side knows Tower Grove Park for its statues, its trails and its farmers market. But some have a harder time getting to it than others.

Soon, there will be relief for those with a disability that makes it more difficult to get around. The city of St. Louis is spending more than $1 million to bring more than 20 intersections at the edge of the park up to standard of the Americans with Disabilities Act and make other improvements.  A special crossing will also be added on Magnolia Avenue at the Missouri School for the Blind.

“It’s crosswalks and curve ramps from the neighborhood,” said William Rein, director of operations and special projects for Tower Grove Park. They will usually be eight feet wide.

“It’s a matter of public safety for starters,” said 10th Ward Alderman Joseph Vollmer, whose ward adjoins the park. He noted there are new standards for crosswalks and ramps. There are ramps, but they’re not up to current ADA standards, he said.

Much of the money comes from the federal government’s Transportation Alternatives Program. The city set it up to improve access.

Construction just started, but the work has been in the planning stage for some time, Rein said. The curb ramps will make it possible for people of all abilities to get into the park, he added.

The project will finish in the late summer at the same time as the resurfacing of Arsenal Street, said Rein. At the same time, Arsenal will get fresh bike lanes.

According to a spokeswoman for the St. Louis Board of Public Service, the ADA ramp upgrades are a part of the larger Tower Grove Park Neighborhood Access Enhancements project. Aldermen in wards surrounding the park initiated it.

The purpose of that project is to improve the connection between the park and the surrounding area by upgrading pedestrian and bicycle routes both on and off the road. Where facilities for pedestrians exist, they are either outdated or don’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a statement provided by the city’s Board of Public Service.

Many access points to the park don’t have bike or pedestrian access points, the statement said. New crosswalk markings for pedestrians and bikes will go up at Magnolia and Center Cross and Arsenal and Center Cross. Push button signals will also be added at intersections. There will also be improvements at bus facilities.  

The total cost is $1,180,000. Most of it comes from a $944,000 Transportation Alternatives Program Grant for the project received through the East-West Gateway Council of Governments. A $236,000 local match  came from ward capital funding from Ward 8, Ward 10, and Ward 15. Steve Conway, who is now chief of staff for Mayor Lyda Krewson, was involved with the process as the 8th Ward Alderman when the application was submitted for funding consideration.

According to the Board of Public Service spokeswoman, the city often uses ward capital funds to make pedestrian enhancements and other infrastructure improvements throughout our citywide park system.

The spokeswoman said the park has always been accessible. But the goal has been to improve all access points around the park so they comply completely with the American with Disabilities Act.

 

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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