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City Hall prepares to spend final wave of St. Louis ARPA funds on safer streets

The Board of Aldermen plans to consider ways to spend the last $74 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to improve safety for commuters and pedestrians.

ST. LOUIS, Missouri — The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is preparing to spend the last of the city's federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) on safer streets. 

The Housing, Urban Development, and Zoning Committee is scheduled to hear proposals on Board Bill 120 Thursday morning. 

The current version of the proposal would spend a total of $74 million with large portions of the funds going to upgrade safety at hot-spot crash sites, to discourage speeding or dangerous driving through busy thoroughfares, and to repave roads in need of repair. 

Alderman Brandon Bosley plans to unveil new plans Thursday morning to steer some of that ARPA funding away from snowplows and sidewalks and redirect that money into youth programming to train kids with career skills, or on curfew centers he claims can supplement juvenile detention centers that have limited capacity.  

"We got all this funding, and we're talking about putting it in the streets," Bosley said. "I think there has to be an exchange there where we come with the humanistic approach as well to ensure that the people that are traveling the streets have the tools that they need to feel -- I think more importantly --like they want to be safer drivers."

Bosley, who faces a primary election challenge from state representative Rasheen Aldridge and incumbent Alderman James Page in March, hopes to redirect millions of dollars away from the St. Louis City Street Department and toward workforce training and after school programs for nonprofit groups in his ward. 

"After all of this ARPA funding is gone, after all these opportunities are over, we're gonna be right back in the same place we were 30 years ago," he said. 

TrailNet policy analyst Charles Bryson said city streets suffer from outdated design, and aldermen should consider automatic enforcement as another means to discourage reckless driving and alleviate workload for police. 

"There needs to be red light cameras," Bryson told 5 On Your Side. "I think perhaps the mayor's office as well as president Board of Aldermen are working on the red-light camera, a red-light camera solution."

"They make cities safer in any study that you've seen," Bryson said. "It only takes money out of your wallet if you're convicted of red-light camera speeding. If you're not, then it doesn't affect you at all."

Bryson and other traffic safety advocates at Trailnet felt the current bill doesn't go far enough. 

"The bill does not specifically address several issues that Trailnet believes are crucial to the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers," CEO Cindy Mense wrote in a letter to the city's Housing, Urban Development, and Zoning Committee.  

"With continued decrease in police officers, it is important that automated traffic enforcement, both red-light and speed cameras, be funded for the safety of all who use our sidewalks and streets," Mense said.

Bosley said poor design is only part of the problem which is made worse by reckless drivers in stolen vehicles. He wants to spend a million dollars for curfew centers where he says police can take teens after 9 p.m. as an alternative to juvenile detention centers. 

"What would it be like 300 slots in juvenile? We got over 500 cars stolen in December," Bosley said.

"You're making the streets less safe. You're not gonna drive that car like it's your own," Bosley said. "You're not gonna drive it like you got a car note to pay next week, not like you got insurance to pay." 

Bosley suggested teens might be less likely to get swept up in carjacking rings if they had access to play video games in a recreational center. 

"Some of these young ones are 15 years old. They don't want to go do this stuff," Bosley said. "But they've been influenced by older folks who are 16 and 17, and then it just goes and continues because that's what you get used to. It becomes something that's fun."

A statement from Mayor Tishaura Jones' office appeared to caution against altering the main focus of the traffic calming measure, suggesting youth programs have already received city support in separate rounds of funding.

"In multiple town halls and surveys, Mayor Jones heard directly from St. Louisans about the need to make our streets safer no matter how people choose to get around - walking, biking, public transit, or driving," spokesman Nick Desideri said in an email. "We are ready to collaborate with the Board of Aldermen on this historic infrastructure investment to improve our roads, implement traffic calming solutions, and develop a comprehensive mobility and transportation plan to guide this important work in the years ahead."

"We appreciate ideas from aldermen on how to improve public safety in our city," Jones' office said. "The city has invested more than $60 million to create better opportunities for our youth and upgrade our recreation centers. Our office will review Bosley’s proposal if introduced in tomorrow’s committee."

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