Mayor Tishuara Jones signs ‘safer streets’ bill

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 12:47 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - St. Louis Mayor Tishuara Jones signed a bill into law Wednesday designed to upgrade infrastructure in the city.

Under the bill, $40 million in federal relief money will go towards infrastructure improvements such as traffic calming, street paving and more.

“This bill will improve dangerous intersections, target areas, implement traffic studies that have been sitting on the shelf, and it also puts us on the path for our city’s first-ever mobility and transportation master plan which we need,” Jones said.

The “safer streets bill” includes plans to repave several major roads, including parts of Jefferson Ave and Kingshighway.

“Traffic violence and reckless driving is an issue that touches our entire city, and its getting worse. In 2020, 17 percent of fatal traffic crashes in the US involve pedestrians. In St. Louis, that figure was 28 percent in 2021,” said Jones. “2022 was the second most deadly year in terms of traffic violence in our city’s history after 2022 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The bill signing comes in the aftermath of several recent high-profile accidents in St. Louis City, including the death of four teens off of Forest Park Avenue and Grand Avenue.

“As we’ve witnessed in the last few weeks, with the horrific deaths of Contrail McKinley, Anthony Robinson, Richard Boyd, Bryanna-Dentman Johnson at Forest Park Parkway and Grand, and with the maming of Janae Edmondson downtown, in addition to the 20 people who were killed walking and biking in 2022…for years we’ve lived with streets that exacerbate the recklessness of drivers, and no one in our city should live in fear for their lives and they go from place to place,” said Liz Kramer, Co-Chair for the Community Mobility Committee.

Family and friends held a balloon release honoring the lives of the four victims of that crash in the underpass off of Grand and Forest Park. Police closed off traffic so loved ones could gather together.

“I was shocked and I didn’t believe it. I’m hurt,” said Dariel Smith, Dentman-Johnson’s cousin. “Right now I’m just here to release the balloons for her and the other people. I’m hoping I’ll get through this, just not right now. It’s a lot to take it because I did not just lose one person. I lost more than one person.”

City leaders hope the Safer Streets Bill will work to prevent violent crashes like this one in the future and hold reckless drivers accountable.

“That’s why my administration has been exploring ways for the city to use automated traffic enforcement, or red light cameras to discourage reckless driving across St. Louis,” said Jones. “We want to make sure that its deployed equitably. We want to make sure there’s due process involved as stated by the Supreme Court and we want to follow the law, so we’re going to make sure as we look into deploying this method of technology for our streets that we do it in an equitable manner.”

Rich Bradley, President of the Board of Public Service says they will working to carry out traffic calming solutions through the funds allocated through this legislation and will be determining a final list of projects and locations.

“Currently the city has traffic studies in key areas that lack the funding to move forward. This bill will move these studies into the design phase. Once the designs are completed, the work is then bid out, and once the contracts are awarded, the construction and improvements will then begin,” said Bradley. “The time frame for moving forward on these projects is as follows: the design process will begin in the spring of 23, and BPS has already retained designers and consultants who simply need this funding to start moving. Then, the designs will be completed by the end of this year and the first quarter of 2024, and construction will begin in 24.”

Board of Alderman President Megan Green says this bill is a major step forward in traffic calming and road improvements because removes the need to use any of the $300,000 dollars a year in ward each Board of Alderman receives. Relying on ward capital has made it difficult to enact consistent changes across the city.

“The streets department has over 3,893 open service requests right now for addressing sidewalk issues. This bill takes a much needed step in funding that gap, and we’re funding safety improvements at the top 10 most dangerous crash locations in the city,” said Green. “It includes having BPS work with traffic engineering consultants to examine existing lane configurations and develop roadway modification that both meet demand calm traffic and enhance pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist safety. This includes things like painted and raised concrete bump outs, concrete medians, enhanced crosswalk markings. Things that we know make us safer.”