ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis civic leaders have long lamented the disconnect between most of downtown and the riverfront area that resulted when Interstate 70 was built through the heart of the city nearly a half-century ago.
But on Tuesday, a new walkway was christened that travels beneath the busy interstate and the maze of roadways near it.
Pinnacle Entertainment opened its Lumiere Place casino in the Laclede's Landing area of the St. Louis riverfront in December, and its swank Four Seasons Hotel followed in February. The latest addition is Lumiere Link, the $8 million, 400-foot-long tunnel beneath the interstate. The casino paid the entire cost of the walkway.
"This piece connects the whole project to the rest of our community," Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission, said at a news conference opening Lumiere Link.
Pinnacle chairman and chief executive officer Daniel Lee said the casino company knew early on it had to find a way to get people -- including the hundreds of thousands of conventioneers who visit St. Louis each year -- safely across the interstate.
At first, casino officials considered a walkway over the highway. But the interstate is raised through downtown and the cost would have been enormous and the climb steep.
So the decision was made to go underground.
The walkway is brightly carpeted and includes moving walkways. TV monitors air ads for the casino, the hotel and the restaurants. Those using the walkway enter through a small brick building near the Edward Jones Dome. The walk to the casino takes about 90 seconds.
Lumiere Place officials said the walkway will be staffed at all times to ensure the safety of those using it.
St. Louis officials and the National Park Service are considering changes to the nearby Gateway Arch grounds, and there has been much discussion about the need to ways to get people safely to and from the riverfront area.