Another open house to be held on Meramec pedestrian bridge; feedback mixed so far

Pictured above: A proposed rendering of the pedestrian bridge project. Rendering courtesy of Great River Greenway.

By Erin Achenbach
Staff Reporter
eachenbach@callnewspapers.com

Residents can weigh in again on a pedestrian bridge proposed for the north side of the new westbound Interstate 44 bridge over the Meramec River after the project received a mix of positive and negative feedback from the 169 attendees at a previous open house.

The Missouri Department of Transportation, Great Rivers Greenway and the cities of Sunset Hills, Kirkwood and Fenton will host another open house next week about the more than $1 million bridge, which is funded by money from the St. Louis County Municipal Parks Grant and Great Rivers Greenway.

Project partners Great Rivers Greenway, MoDOT and the three cities welcome residents to a second open house about the project Tuesday, Oct. 15 at the RiverChase Recreation Center in Fenton, 990 Horan Drive, from 6 to 8 p.m. Like the first open house in Sunset Hills, the community is invited to provide feedback about the pedestrian bridge.

The pedestrian bridge project, which is still in the planning stages and won’t go out to bid for construction until the end of 2020, will connect Stoneywood Drive to the Meramec Greenway near Yarnell Road. This will make it possible for people to walk, ride a bike, push a stroller or use a wheelchair to connect to parks, businesses and neighborhoods on both sides of the river.

The first open house held Aug. 20 at the Sunset Hills Community Center had 169 attendees.

Feedback left by the public on the project was a mix of positive and negative, with a majority supporting the project while others expressed concerns about the environmental impact of some portions of the project, such as a trail spur under Interstate 44 along the east side of the river. Poster boards with diagrams of the project were available for the public to review and leave feedback on in the form of Post-It notes about what they liked and didn’t like.

Sunset Hills resident Michael Hennon, who lives on Stoneywood Drive, said that he is opposed to a trail spur along the east side of the river under I-44 in order to preserve the environment along the bluffs on the east side.  He called the trail spur a “spur to nowhere” from the I-44 Bridge approach.

“The trail spur is going to be a trail spur to nowhere,” said Hennon at the open house. “You will look over the Meramec and I-44 bridge. That’s not a scenic overlook.”

Hennon added that he is not opposed to the entire project but that he is only opposed to the east side trail spur.

President of the St. Louis Recreational Cyclists, Faye Holdenreid, said that the 170 members of the organization supported the project and the biking, hiking and walking opportunities the pedestrian bridge would provide once complete.

“… Missing from these interstate and intrastate bridge links is a bicycle-accessible bridge across the Meramec River. Such a link would greatly improve access to our region’s many recreational and cultural attractions along the I-44 corridor,” said Holdenreid, who submitted a letter to the project partners. “Connecting trails and providing new trailheads, restrooms and benches will be a welcome addition. The bridge will allow senior citizens as well as families to more safely enjoy this area of St. Louis County.”

Some of the funding for the project comes from grants from the St. Louis County Municipal Park Grant Commission. According to the 2018-2019 annual report released by the commission, in 2018 the commission awarded Fenton a $98,292 grant toward the project, along with a $673,063 grant to Kirkwood for the project and a $207,548 grant to Sunset Hills. Together, the three grants total $978,903.

Public feedback will once again be welcome at the Oct. 15 meeting at the RiverChase Recreation Center in Fenton, 990 Horan Drive from 6 to 8 p.m.