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'Park Over The Highway' Portion Of Arch Overhaul Reaches Milestone

Deanna Venker of the Missouri Department of Transportation is accustomed to building bridges for cars and trucks.

But MoDOT’s area engineer for the city of St. Louis said constructing the so-called “park over the highway” in front of the Gateway Arch is a bit out of the ordinary.

“This is a very different bridge in the sense that there’s not going to be any cars or trucks going over,” Venker said. “It’s strictly a park over the highway for pedestrians and bicyclists that are coming into the park area.”

MoDOT has nearly finished work on the bottom part of a structure that connects downtown with the Gateway Arch. It’s part of a long-standing goal to make it easier for pedestrians. 

Deanna Venker of the Missouri Department of Transportation
Credit Jason Rosenbaum, St. Louis Public Radio
Deanna Venker of the Missouri Department of Transportation

For decades, visitors to the national monument had to walk across a highway in order to get to the Arch. CityArchRiver’s Ryan McClure said when work is completely finished on the park next fall, it will mark the physical connection between “our symbol that represents our region to St. Louis.”

“As a region, we’ve been talking about how to connect the Arch to St. Louis for decades,” McClure said. “Really, since it was completed.”

CityArchRiver invited reporters on Thursday to have a look at the ashy gray bridge connecting the Arch with downtown. While standing in the center of the structure, it’s fairly quiet – even though cars are traveling underneath on a highway.

Venker said MoDOT should finish up some drainage work in a couple of weeks. After that, they’ll turn the project over to landscapers who will transform the structure into a park. At the same time, landscapers will also be refurbishing Luther Ely Smith Square that’s directly in front of the Arch.

“We’re going to basically turn this piece over to the landscape designers and they’re going to fill it in with dirt and then place their shrubs and trees, hundreds of trees, walkways and paths on top of this structure to create that park-like environment that we’re used to,” Venker said.

McClure said landscaping on the park over the highway and Luther Ely Smith Square should be completed by next fall.   

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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