Construction is underway to create the first calm street

Category: Auto Accidents

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Time and time again, Randy Vines sees car crashes and near-accidents outside his storefront at STL Style on Cherokee Street in South City, Missouri.

“The way it’s been is just like the wild west, and I think that we need to put an end to the recklessness,” said Vines.

Earlier this month, Vines witnessed a serious crash, and his store’s surveillance cameras also captured the incident. In the video, you can see a car crossing the intersection at Cherokee and Compton Ave. Then another car barrels through the intersection, failing to make a stop at the stop sign.

“Barreling down Cherokee Street at 50 miles an hour, blowing through every stop sign along the way…sent both of them into a spin, and then hit another car and then a tree,” said Vines “Just a terrible loud crash. I can’t believe more people weren’t seriously injured.”

He feels like crashes and near-accidents have escalated at this intersection in recent months.

“Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve witnessed incidents like this right here and in other parts of the city. Definitely not unique to our intersection but still very prevalent over here,” said Vines. “Everybody is paying a little closer attention.”

These same traffic concerns are being felt along a number of south city roads, according to Trailnet’s 2021 St. Louis City and County Crash Report.

“There are nine streets that represent 46 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes,” said Taylor March, Programs and Policy Director for Trailnet. “Grand, Kingshighway, Union, Page, Martin Luther King…so those kinds of streets are the ones that we really need to work on decreasing speeds.”

Trailnet, a 501c3 nonprofit, has been helping the city make roads safer for all forms of transportation.

“We’re starting to kind of do better at doing traffic calming on neighborhood corridors but we still have a lot to learn on major arterials, and that’s where we see the most crashes,” said March.

However, a new project on one of the city’s more troublesome streets for traffic could soon serve a roadmap to help calm speeds in other areas.

This month, the city began work on creating the city’s first calm street on Louisiana Avenue from Meramec to Gravois.

“A street that is heavily traffic-calmed so that it is very, very comfortable for people who are walking on the sidewalks, very comfortable for people who are biking on the street,” said March. “Still works for people who are driving but it is done where, if you keep speeds low enough we can mix things a little more.”

The project will include a number of measures to slow down traffic speeds, including pinch points, which extend the curb length at intersections.

“That helps naturally slow down traffic and keeps speeds lower,” said March. “There will also be vegetation. Trees do a lot actually to create a sense of enclosure and make people feel like it’s not as safe to drive fast.”

March added, “Once this project is completed, at this intersection, at Chippewa, and at Cherokee there will also be little neighborhood traffic circles…so similar to roundabouts.”

80 percent of the funding for the city’s first calm street comes from federal grant money, and the other 20 percent comes from match funding through three of the city’s Aldermen on this project.

When this project is completed, March hopes they can take some of these same tools to slow down speeds on other roads.

“The city really wants to make sure that when this goes in, it serves as a really good model and its not…good for some users but not for others.”

For Vines, a hope that this and future projects could soon lead to creating solutions on his corner to address traffic safety.

“It would be really nice to see elevated pedestrian crosswalks,” said Vines. “Just something to force people at the very least to slow down at the intersection.”

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