ST. LOUIS — It is perhaps St. Louis’s most scenic, iconic, romantic, stretches of roadway, but Leonor K Sullivan Boulevard in front of the Gateway Arch is now completely “off-limits” to vehicle traffic amid reports of soaring crime and gunfire there.
Both tourists and residents, however, say blockading the roadway is not the solution. They’re calling on St. Louis Mayor, Tishaura Jones, and the St. Louis Police department to come up with a better answer.
Four months into 2022, police report nearly 40 police calls along “Leonor K”. Authorities tell FOX 2 News most of the gunfire actually goes unreported. Though a handful of the police calls are non-criminal, too many are criminal, including last week’s triple shooting that left a 28-year-old man dead.
“When it becomes dark outside, it becomes the Wild West down here,” said 7th Ward Alderman Jack Coatar. “You’ve got folks coming down, having huge parties, shooting.”
The scenic riverfront drive is in his ward. The cobblestones that line the Mississippi River recently became the prime gathering spot for people in hundreds of cars after police blocked off the shoulders of “Leonor K” with boulders to keep hundreds of people from parking their cars along the boulevard.
The frequent gunfire is a threat to passing river traffic. It’s nothing new. A worker for a barge/towboat company showed FOX 2 a handful of bullets and bullet fragments collected from the decks of tug boats and barges downriver in South St. Louis in recent months.
Gunfire is also a threat to the Gateway Arch grounds where a $380 million renovation was completed less than four years ago. Coatar would like to double down on that investment with improved security measures rather than road closures.
“We’ve got to come up with a better gate system,” he said. “If we need to spend some money to do it, let’s do it. We’ve already spent close to $400 million on this riverfront, what’s a few more bucks.”
Last week, St. Louis Police started locking a set of swinging gates at Leonor K and Chouteau, south of the Arch, at 7:00 nightly to eliminate vehicle traffic.
A foreboding solid metal roadblock remains in place day and night near the Poplar Street Bridge, so vehicles cannot pass by the river in front of the Arch at any time of the day. That scenic drive now just looks desolate and scary.
“I think dealing with the actual issue versus penalizing everybody else that lives in the city is the better approach because you’re taking away one of our national treasures,” said life-long St. Louis, Amirah Carter.
Ben Gaines, in town on business from North Carolina, stared down at the boulevard from the Arch steps and thought how beautiful it must look drive through at night.
“It’s impressive. It would be fun,” he said.
“It just seems like a great part of the community and a great integral part of the downtown area that’s lacking. It’s sad,” said Tiffany Lattero, who is also visiting from North Carolina. “That’s not fair to everyone else that lives and visits and enjoys the area.”
“It’s a huge loss for the city as well as tourism,” Carter said. “People come to St. Louis to get that full experience. That’s a big part of it: the boats, the lights, the kind of ‘Lovers Lane’ feel when you down there.”
FOX 2 asked whether St. Louis Mayor, Tishaura Jones, had plans to make any changes. A spokesman referred us to the police department statement regarding the new, nightly, gate closures.