Police closing parts of Washington Avenue to all vehicles

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)--  Starting Friday night, parts of Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis will be closed to vehicles.

It was last summer when police first began experimenting with keeping traffic off the street late at night on weekends.

And some thought it worked so well, they are trying it again, but this time it may last longer than a few weeks.

"If we see that the traffic congestion is not significant as the winter months come and the outdoor activity starts to slow down, we won`t do it as often," said St. Louis Police Lt. Col. Paul Nocchiero. "However, we will do it anytime we see the traffic patterns and the congestion in that area make it unsafe for people visiting the businesses."

The summer of 2012 was brutal when it came to car break-ins, fights and endless cruising on Washington Avenue.

But this summer, things were much better because businesses paid for a festival permit and the more than 30 officers needed to enforce its long list of rules.

Now however, that permit is expiring, so they are bringing back the roadblocks.

"I believe is just an effort to make sure we continue that momentum and really the thing that became most evident as an issue was the traffic congestion on Washington Avenue," said Missy Kelley, spokesperson for Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.

The reaction to the traffic cut-off is largely positive from businesses and residents.

"Really most of our garages are accessed behind the buildings anyway so personally
I don`t drive on Washington Avenue all that much," said resident Dana Goddard.

Unlike last year, these street closures will continue indefinitely, something business
owners like Prime 1000 restaurant`s Tom Sutliffe knows is a calculated risk.

"It does limit the amount of people that do come to the area parking-wise, so it is something that will be discussed in January when we move forward to next season, to see what is best for the businesses and most importantly the people of St. Louis," he said.

The blockade begins at 10:00 P.M. Friday and continues until 3:00 A.M. Saturday from 14th Street to Tucker Blvd.

"As it becomes a bigger destination and more people come down here you just have to adapt what is working and what makes the experience better for everyone as a whole," Kelley said.

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