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MoDOT’s safety plan for Natural Bridge includes medians, new crosswalks

HAMILTON HEIGHTS – Just on the heels of a new report flagging St. Louis as the 16th most dangerous city for pedestrians, MoDOT met for the second time with residents to reveal and further discuss proposed community-based safety changes to Natural Bridge Boulevard. 

The open house was held at The Best Place, 5736 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr. 

Planning began after a 2017 safety audit by MoDOT, city officials and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The faction found that the four-mile stretch of Natural Bridge (from the east – Salisbury/Parnell Streets west on the road to Goodfellow) had an excessively high rate of crashes. 

According to the audit, the crashes were caused by improper lane use; speeding; and pedestrians’ not crossing at crosswalks. 

After the findings, MoDOT proposed a raised median down the center of the road as a traffic-calming mechanism to lessen speeds, accidents and fatalities. The state transportation department, prepared to accelerate $6 million into the project, then began meeting with nearby residents for feedback and additional measures. 

Working with city public safety officials, MoDOT designated the four-mile stretch of Natural Bridge a Travel Safe Zone.

The Travel Safe Zone includes increased traffic police patrols and doubled fines for motorists committing traffic infractions. 

“I’ve witnessed more of a police presence enforcing traffic laws, specifically speeding, running stop signs and stop lights,” said Tiffanie Stanfield, founder and executive director of Fighting H.A.R.D. (Fighting Hit And Run Driving). 

Stanfield, who started the nonprofit after the vehicular death of her sister Jameka, attended the open house Wednesday at The Best Place.

As part of the project, MoDOT proposed the following safety solutions: 

  • A road “diet” – a reduction in number of lanes or the road width – between Euclid and Parnell/Salisbury
  • Roundabouts at Goodfellow, Vandeventer and the Salisbury and Parnell intersection 
  • Mid-block crosswalks with rapid flashing beacons in several areas along the corridor
  • Medians at various locations between Euclid and the Salisbury/Parnell intersection 
  • Yellow reflective back plates around signals 
  • Higher-visibility crosswalk striping 

After carefully perusing the draft layouts of proposed changes on display at the public meeting, Stanfield raised concerns regarding pedestrian safety. 

Her issues lie with the stretch from the popular, busy intersection of Kingshigway and Natural Bridge boulevards, east to Euclid Avenue. Specifically, she questioned why there was only one crosswalk on the stretch where there were medians. 

“You and I both know, there’s a lot of foot traffic in this area, so why don’t we have a crosswalk here?” she asked. “So a person would have to legally cross here to walk to any of the places or the bus stop across the street.” 

Continuing her line of questions, she asked, “Are we creating a bigger problem, if someone is trying to cross the street to get to the bus stop? And they’re running, jumping over this new median to get to the bus. What happens if a car is coming?” 

After looking at the feedback, engineers decide on what works and whether it would fit within the budget.

“The people told MoDOT where they wanted everything to be, and then we kept coming back and saying, ‘What do you think about this?’” said Shirlyn Myles, community liaison for MoDOT. “And I’m so proud of that, because it wasn’t some bigwigs somewhere just drawing lines – it was our people telling us, ‘I’m sick and tired of us dying on this part of the road.’

“And that to me is worth it,” Myles added.

Bill Beene Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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