National and state leaders broke ground Friday on the first phase of the CityArchRiver 2015 plan to revitalize the Gateway Arch grounds.
Two members of President Obama’s cabinet—Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx—were present at the ceremony. The first project is a park to be built over Interstate 70 to improve accessibility between downtown and the Arch grounds. Senator Claire McCaskill praised local officials for getting to this point.
“There is not another place in the country that has done this like we have done this," McCaskill said. "There has not ever been a community that has taxed itself to support a federal park. And there is only one other place that you have seen the kind of public/private partnership that we have here in St. Louis, and that’s Ellis Island."
The park over the highway project will cost about $55 million and is being paid for through a combination of federal, state and private funding.
CityArchRiver chairman Walter Metcalfe said visitors will notice the difference when they visit the Arch.
“You’re not going to hear all this junk. You’re going to be able to take the dignity of the Old Courthouse and its extraordinary history, Dred Scott and the like, from Kiener Plaza and all the way through. And you’re not going to hear this background music. The sound will be gone. Memorial will be gone. I-70 is disappearing," Metcalfe said Friday.
Rerouted roads, new bridges, landscaping improvements and other work are also part of the massive undertaking on the Arch grounds that officials hope to complete by Oct. 28, 2015 - the 50th anniversary of the topping of the Arch.