The renovation of North Tucker Boulevard is nearing completion. This section of Tucker north of Washington Avenue was built as a tunnel for the Illinois Terminal Railroad in 1931. The tunnel has now been filled up with styrofoam and dirt and the last remnants will be buried soon. The real impact of the new Tucker Boulevard will not be felt until the completion of the new Mississippi River Bridge in 2015. The new bridge will not only accommodate traffic coming from Illinois to Interstate 70 West (and vice versa ), it will also directly connect to downtown St. Louis, via the new North Tucker Boulevard.
The new North Tucker will greatly enhance the connection between Soulard and Lafayette Square to the south and Crown Square in Old North St. Louis and Illinois to the north of downtown. In fact, it should be relatively simple to connect 14th Street from Crown Square to the new Tucker Boulevard and create a direct connection between it and downtown.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has more photos of the digging of the Tucker Tunnel in 1931.
The new Tucker Boulevard will not only become a major thoroughfare through the heart of downtown, it could become a destination, with the intersection with Washington as its center point. Tucker is already lined with beautiful architecture as some of downtown’s most interesting buildings can be found here.
Now, all is not well. There are still plenty of issues that need improvement. For instance, there is a sea of parking lots from just north of Washington all the way up to Cole Street. The new boulevard might spawn future investment in mixed-use development of 5-8 story residential with street level retail.
Another big question still remains about Interstate 70 slicing through downtown, effectively cutting it off from the riverfront. Once the new bridge opens, Illinois traffic towards I-70 West will be redirected and no longer use Poplar Street bridge or the downtown section of I-70. Many downtown St. Louis-bound Illinoisans soon will be using the new bridge as well. One group that advocates for removal of the downtown section of I-70 is City to River. They have interesting ideas on how to reconnect downtown to the riverfront.
Interstate 70 dividing downtown and the riverfront.
It remains to be seen to what extent the new North Tucker Boulevard and the new Mississippi River Bridge will impact downtown. We do know that it will create new and easy connections between Illinois, Old North, Downtown, Lafayette Square and Soulard, right through the core of downtown St. Louis. Developers, please take a good hard look at the new opportunities.