New Bike/Ped Crossing of Missouri River underway: Missouri 370 Discovery Bridge at St. Charles/Bridgeton

A new bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the Missouri River--long under discussion and study--is finally underway in St. Charles and St. Louis Counties.  Engineering and design is now moving forward on the project, which is fully funded.

The current plan is for a bike/ped path on each bridge.
The current plan is for a bike/ped path on each bridge. Pedestrians could walk either direction; bicyclists will travel northbound on the east bridge and southbound on the west bridge. This somewhat unusual design minimizes the impact to the motor vehicle travel lanes and shoulders on either bridge, while dramatically reducing cost and still providing an accessible bike/ped path.

The project is a collaboration between the cities of St. Charles and Bridgeton, MoDOT (which owns/operates the bridge), Great Rivers Greenway, and others.

The Discovery Bridge carries Missouri 370 across the Missouri River between St. Charles and Bridgeton. It is one of six Missouri River Bridges in the greater St. Louis region. As one of the most logical and direct connections between two highly populated counties, bicycle and pedestrian access across the Discovery Bridge has long been under discussion.

An important connection, but bicycle and pedestrian access has been minimal up to now

For many years, bicyclists who needed to cross the river in this area simply entered MO 370 on one side of the river, crossed the river on the wide shoulder of the Discovery Bridge, and exited MO 370 on the other side.  It was one of the few Missouri River crossings in the region where bicycle access was even possible, and for that reason it was quite well used. However, the approaches were narrow and treacherous, with difficult high-speed and high volume traffic and merge lanes at either end of the bridge.

In recent years, responsible agencies and cities have built improved bicycle-accessible ramps on each side of the bridge, improving bicycle access greatly.  However, the main bridge crossing is still on an open shoulder with 70 mph traffic--making it undesirable for many cyclists and essentially unusable for pedestrians.

Working for a new bike/ped crossing of the Missouri River

In recent years, the nearby cities, Great Rivers Greenway, MoDOT, and other agencies have cooperated on an important feasibility study for bicycle and pedestrian river crossings in the region

The result was a recommendation that bicycle and pedestrian access by added to the I-70 bridge at St. Charles and to the Discovery Bridge (MO 370) at the earliest available opportunity. An evaluation of the economic return on investment showed that the I-70 bridge brought the most benefits, but the MO 370 was so much less expensive that it had the highest rate of return.

Adjacent cities, lead by St. Charles, went right to work locating funding for the project.  Today the project is funded at just more than $3 million--an amount that sounds like a lot to the average person, but is a flat-out bargain in major bridge terms.

The funding is a combination of dollars from local communities, Great Rivers Greenway, Missouri State economic development funds, and federal Transportation Alternatives funding. All the funding is on a timeline, so--unless something goes off track--expect to see construction contracts signed for this project by Summer 2017.

A project of statewide and national significance

The Discovery Bridge serves as the Missouri River crossing point for the popular Mississippi River Trail, which stretches the entire length of the Mississippi River.

In addition, the Katy Trail connects to the north side of the bridge--a trail connection on the north side of the river that now stretches all the way to the Kansas City metro area.  This section of the Katy Trail is also part of the Adventure Cycling Lewis and Clark Trail that begins i nthe St. Louis area and ends at the Pacific Coast.

Less known is that a continuous stretch of trails are coming together south of the Missouri River in this area--part of Great Rivers Greenways' River Ring system. In the not-too-distant future, it will be possible to follow the trail all the way from the Discovery Bridge to the Rock Island Trail near Washington, Missouri, and from their continue on the Rock Island Trail all the way to Kansas City.

A planned bike/ped path added to the I-70 bridge at St. Charles
A planned bike/ped path added to the I-70 bridge at St. Charles might look something like this. The I-70 access point was rated as the most desirable because of its proximity to population and business centers. Work on the I-70 bridge is planned in the near future, but up to this point no definite work has been done to incorporate the new bike/ped path into that planned work.

In short, the Discovery Bridge stands at the nexus of several cross-state and cross-country bicycle routes.  For that reason, it is a river crossing of statewide and national significance for our bicycle and pedestrian transportation system.

Please keep an eye on this important project as it progresses from design to construction to grand opening--which could happen as soon as late 2017 or early 2018.

If you get a chance, give a word of thanks to St. Charles, Bridgeton, Great Rivers Greenway, MoDOT, and other agency staff and elected officials who were involved in making this important project a reality.

 

Work to create a world-class, seamlessly connected bicycle and pedestrian transportation system across Missouri is one of the core goals in MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Major river crossing projects like the Discover Bridge are the most important, the most essential, yet also the most expensive and difficult pieces of that work. Every major bridge that becomes bicycle and pedestrian accessible in Missouri is another major step forward and a reason to celebrate.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help turn our Vision into reality!

 

Map of the St. Louis County/St. Charles County area

The Discovery Bridge is a key element in Missouri's cross-state trail system

Image credits: Missouri  River Crossing Feasibility Study, Executive Summary.

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