Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said in St. Louis the other day that federal budget cuts could force the charging of an admission fee at the Gateway Arch, the St. Louis landmark that (as Calvin Trillin noted in the New Yorker) is the entire breadth of Missouri away from the real gateway to the West, Kansas City (where Calvin Trillin is from). The arch, officially the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, is one of the National Park Service's top draws, with 2.5 million visitors annually. It is part of a Mississippi riverfront complex that includes a museum and the historic U.S. courthouse where the case originated that led to the Supreme Court's 1857 Dred Scott decision (when the court ruled that a slave was not a citizen).

The budget for the complex has been straight-lined (during inflationary times) at about $2.4 million annually, and thus park officials are looking for ways to save. One suggestion was to close the courthouse, a proposal that officials in Washington insist died at the staff meeting where it was raised. Gephardt's office said that admission fees, parking fees and other measures are being considered to ensure that the courthouse--which only attracts only 100,000 visitors annually--stays open. One possibility: a boost in the $1.50 it costs adults to ride that little sideways-moving elevator 650 feet to the top of the arch.