A second pedestrian in three months has died while crossing the street in front of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard’s flagship stand in south St. Louis, prompting calls for more police to patrol that area and other action.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Matthew Nikolai, 17, a senior at Christian Brothers College High School, was crossing Chippewa Street (aka Route 66) heading to Ted Drewes when he was hit by two vehicles on Friday. One section of the street was closed during the investigation, and one of the drivers has not been found.
In mid-May, Edward Walter, a 75-year-old retired Washington University Medical School librarian, died after being hit by a car in front of the frozen custard stand.
Allyson Putz of nearby Webster Groves told the newspaper she saw the accident Friday while taking her 8-year-old son to the custard stand.
Putz said that her son was terrified and she was infuriated that the city hasn’t done anything to make the area safer for pedestrians.
“I’m familiar enough to know how dangerous it is,” said Putz, who either parks in the lot or on residential streets behind the custard stand to avoid crossing Chippewa. “But people from out of town don’t know.”
Ted Drewes owner Travis Dillon told the Post-Dispatch on Saturday he was not at the stand when the second accident occurred but was “very concerned.”
He said he had talked in the past to city officials about how to make the area safer but wasn’t sure what could be done.
The location on the historic Route 66 opened in 1941 and more than doubled its capacity in 1985. There are metal barriers and security officers out front, but summer crowds overflow the small lot; many customers park at businesses across the five-lane street. The speed limit is listed at 35 mph on Chippewa at River Des Peres, near the St. Louis County divide, but there are no speed limit signs near the frozen custard stand.
Dillon said there had never been any incidents until this year. He said distracted driving could be to blame.
Alderman Tom Oldenburg, who represents the 16th Ward, on Saturday said that he had scheduled a meeting for Monday with the traffic commissioner to discuss both short- and long-term solutions. He wants more of a police presence on busy nights and plans to extend a traffic study already in the works to include Chippewa between Hampton and Jamieson avenues.
As a person who once lived in the St. Louis region for years and last visited Ted Drewes just a month ago, I can attest that pedestrian and traffic issues always have lurked there.
I remember a time before Ted Drewes erected mental barricades between Chippewa Street and the service windows. People standing in line to make orders or those enjoying their custard often spilled over onto the road itself. At least someone had the foresight to eventually set up some sort of barrier.
Chippewa remains a key artery to the southwest part of the city. As traffic grows there as Route 66’s centennial approaches in 2026, it may be time for the city to consider a decrease in the speed limit through that stretch.
(Image of Ted Drewes Frozen Custard in St. Louis by Philip Leara via Flickr)