Reimagining West Florissant Avenue
Great Streets Project looks to the future with major improvements to county thoroughfare
By Nicholas Elmes
How would you like to see West Florissant Avenue change in the coming years?
That is the question being asked of area residents, businesses and stake holders as part of the West Florissant Avenue Great Streets Project which is designed to create a safe and accessible area for all vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists and transit riders and connect communities, strengthen West Florissant Avenue’s positive identity, enhance mobility for all users and build momentum to transform the area’s future.
“The Great Streets Initiative goes back to the middle part of the early 2000s,” said St. Louis County Departments of Transportation and Public Works Public Information Manager David G. Wrone. “It was established to identify thoroughfares throughout St. Louis County that would be good candidates for improvements and redesigns and West Florissant Avenue was selected as an ideal street for that purpose.”
The final project is intended to provide improvements on West Florissant Avenue from Stein Avenue South to the Norfolk Southern Railroad in Ferguson.
Wrone said the project is still in the early stages with focus on using about $2.5 million in grant funding to engage the community in a design for the final project.
“Our consultant is doing the early design work and part of that includes outreach to the public like an open house we held on March 9,” he said. “That was really successful with about well over 100 people in attendance. They made a lot of comments to give us a better idea of where the community wants to see this go. The comments we received will be incorporated into the final design and development phase.”
Wrone said comments at the meeting ranged from transportation needs to increased parking and beautification with more trees.
“You had a wide range of issues that were important to individual people,” he said. “You had people who want additional sidewalks or wider sidewalks, more and better street lighting, more and better bus stops and additional pedestrian crossing locations. There is a wide variety of improvements that can be made on this particular stretch of roadway and the public has certainly not been bashful about sharing their vision with us. We are very happy about that.”
He said economic development was also a key goal of whatever the final plan for the street improvements ends up looking like.
“We have met with dozens of community organizations and businesses to see what they want,” said Wrone. “If you make improvements to a major roadway like West Florissant Avenue that is going to stimulate a better business environment in that corridor.
“The intent is to make this corridor friendlier to all transportation users, whether they are in motor vehicles, in a bus, on foot, on a bike or in a wheelchair,” he added. “All of that will be taken into consideration.”
While the county has not yet obtained funding for the eventual improvements, Wrone said all of the stakeholders in the project were committed to its success.
“We cannot begin to pursue funding until we accomplish what we are currently doing,” he said. “We have to get a fairly solid idea of what we want to do with this stretch of roadway before we move forward with looking for funding. Once we get the design more fleshed out then the county executive will move forward with the funding portion of the process.”
That could happen as early as this summer, according to Wrone.
“We are still very early in the process, but our consultant expects to have a sufficient design data for us to begin identifying and going after some of the funding sources for this project,” he said, noting that before that happens there will be at least two more public comment meeting to share the design process with residents and businesses in the area. “One of our key philosophies is you have to solicit feedback from the public, you have to show the public the information you have to ensure a project’s chance of success.”
Once the design work is complete, Wrone said it could take two to three years before any physical improvements begin in the area.
“A project of this nature has lots of steps that have to be taken,” he said. “You have to follow a very certain process and it is not particularly rapid.”
He said he expects the final project to cost close to $33 million, most of which he said the county hopes will be funded through federal grants.
“That is a significant amount of money, but this is a priority for us and we are very anxious to be going forward and identifying and obtaining the funding. This is something that is very important to the people of Dellwood and Ferguson and to the county executive and our department.”
If the project does not win a federal transportation grant, the project will immediately begin looking for alternative funding sources, different phases and reapplying for federal grants.
The entire project is sponsored by St. Louis County Department of Transportation and East-West Gateway Council of Governments (St. Louis’ regional planning organization), in partnership with the Cities of Dellwood and Ferguson. West Florissant Avenue is maintained by St. Louis County.
For more information and to find out how to get involved in the project visit http://westflorissantavenue.com.