Progress on Stopping the Page Avenue Freeway
by Claralyn Price-Bollinger

We continue to score more victories on the way to stopping the Page Avenue Freeway. By December 1, twenty of the 92 St. Louis County municipalities had passed resolutions expressing their opposition to this wasteful highway project. Here's the list of municipalities: Bellefontaine Neighbors, Blackjack, Clayton, Dellwood, Ferguson, Florissant, MacKenzie, Maplewood, Normandy, Northwoods , Pagedale, Pasadena Hills, Shrewsbury, St. Ann, St. John, Town & Country, University City, Vinita Park, Wildwood, Woodson Terrace. The Florissant Valley Chamber of Commerce and St. Louis County Municipal League have also opposed the Page Avenue Freeway.

By the time you read this issue of the Ozark Sierran, the Eastern Missouri Group will have sent an update on the Page Avenue project to over 800 municipal officials, school board members and state representatives and senators in St. Louis City and County. We last contacted these officials at the end of August; since then, 18 municipalities have passed their resolutions.

The following is an excerpt from this update:

We refer to the "Page Avenue Extension" as the "Page Avenue Freeway" since that is what this project truly is: a new, ten-lane highway project through Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, a magnificent park dedicated to war veterans which receives over 1,000,000 visitors per year.

Over the past several decades, our metropolitan region's population has remained virtually stagnant, but our urbanized land has increased at an alarming rate. As a result, some established areas are cannibalized when assets are shifted to newly developed areas of the region. We see one example of this situation in the region's schools. Some outlying areas build new schools, while established districts wrestle with dwindling resources.

We need to stop the Page Avenue Freeway because of the economic impact it would have on St. Louis. Our gasoline tax dollars are being used to drain the tax base out of our cities and school districts. Time after time, we have seen businesses and jobs follow our tax dollars out of town because adequate funds are not available to rebuild and maintain our existing infrastructure. It is time for established areas to be supported by our transportation decisions.

We do not think that the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission should cater to developers and continue with this harmful project that would be detrimental to our entire metropolitan region. We should have learned by now that we cannot build ourselves out of traffic congestion. One in three state and federal transportation dollars spent in the St. Louis metropolitan region in the next nine years will go to the Page Avenue Bridge and Freeway. Why should we spend so much of our tax money on this one project, which will not solve traffic congestion problems and will hurt our tax base?

Here is the Sample Resolution we have offered to municipalities and organizations:

WHEREAS, the region's population has increased by very little in the last 25 years, but the amount of developed land has dramatically increased; and

WHEREAS, this imbalance between the rate of population increase and the rate of land development has been unsustainable, causing disproportionate highway expenditures for expansion projects as compared to maintenance and modernization of the built system; and

WHEREAS, the proposed Page Avenue Freeway and Bridges will bring the total freeway bridge lanes between St. Louis County and St. Charles County to 32, from 9 in 1977; and

WHEREAS, 32 bridge lanes across the Missouri River exceeds the number of freeway/interstate lanes between St. Louis City and St. Louis County; and

WHEREAS, the $250,000,000 Highway 370 Freeway and Bridge across the Missouri River recently opened; and

WHEREAS, Highway 40 is scheduled to be widened and improved to interstate standards in St. Charles; and

WHEREAS, the Missouri Department of Transportation's official cost estimates for the Page Avenue Freeway have increased from $372,000,000 to $550,000,000 since 1995; and

WHEREAS, the Page project is scheduled to utilize one-third of the region's state and federal highway funds for the next three years, and with additional costs, will utilize similar percentages for the next eight years; and

WHEREAS, state gasoline taxes have increased ten cents per gallon in the last ten years, and the Governor's Total Transportation Commission has recommended a one cent statewide sales tax increase primarily for highways, thereby providing further proof of our inability to sustain patterns of highway expansion and maintenance projects and outward development of land; and

WHEREAS, this pattern of development has contributed to a shift in population, tax base and employment locations with little or no net gain to the region; and

WHEREAS, this pattern has also assisted in the continuing loss of middle class residents in many at-risk areas of the region; and

WHEREAS, this pattern can be changed to promote quality development throughout the region if there is the political will to do so; and

WHEREAS, the environmental and scenic impact on Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park by construction and use of the Page Avenue Extension is exceptional and will change the entire character of the Park; and

WHEREAS, the Page Avenue Freeway project presents the possibility of flooding of the St. Louis County Water Company, thereby threatening the region's water supply; and

WHEREAS, the state of Missouri usurped the authority of all local governments, including the City of Maryland Heights, to control state-sponsored projects in flood plains; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY OF _________________, ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MISSOURI, AS FOLLOWS:

The City of ___________________ expresses our opposition to the proposed Page Avenue Freeway.

The Page Avenue Freeway project affects all Missourians, not just those in the St. Louis metropolitan region, since it would be paid for by gasoline tax dollars. Are there bridges falling apart in your community? What about the rural roads all over our state? Many of them are in a very sorry condition due to lack of funds. Situations like this will only continue when projects such as Page Avenue gobble up massive amounts of our tax dollars.

What Can I Do?

If you live in St. Louis County, please call or write St. Louis County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall (314- 889-2016) and your county council member (314-889-2432), both at 41 South Central Ave. St. Louis, MO 63105. St. Louis County Sierrans should also contact their municipal officials to find out if they have passed a resolution opposing Page Avenue (see sample above).

If you live elsewhere in the St. Louis metropolitan region, please contact your elected officials to ask for their opposition to the Page Avenue Freeway project.

Anybody outside of the St. Louis metropolitan region, please write to Governor Carnahan at Missouri Capitol Building, Room 216 P.O. Box 720 Jefferson City, MO 65102-0720

You can also write letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Reach out to neighbors, friends, family and coworkers and discuss how our tax dollars are spent. Currently, there are volunteer opportunities in the St. Louis area to help stop the Page Avenue Freeway. You can attend mailing parties, phone banks, volunteer regularly in the Eastern Missouri Group office or other activities on an as needed basis. Please contact Claralyn Price-Bollinger, Staff Member for the Eastern Missouri Group to offer your assistance.

My e-mail address is claralyn.price-bollinger@sierraclub.org