Public gatherings will be held this week on two major transportation projects that will cost big bucks — though the funding for them has yet to be firmed up.
Meetings will be held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in St. Louis on a proposed Northside-Southside expansion of MetroLink with a price tag of several hundred million dollars.
Planners will offer information on possible routes, stations and other features, and solicit feedback from people who show up.
The gatherings, each from 4 to 7 p.m., will be Tuesday at Five Star Senior Center, 2832 Arsenal Street; Wednesday at Central Library downtown, 1301 Olive Street; and Thursday at the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, 2901 North Grand Boulevard.
Meanwhile, there will be a meeting Wednesday in Granite City on building a new Chain of Rocks bridge to replace the existing span built in 1966 to carry Interstate 270 across the Mississippi River. The price tag: an estimated $225 million.
That meeting, also from 4 to 7, will be at Southwestern Illinois College’s Granite City campus at 4950 Maryville Road.
The sessions will follow an “open house” format in which participants look at maps and other information, then ask planners questions and offer their opinions.
Even though the federal dollars needed to help pay for these big-ticket items haven’t been secured, officials say it’s important to do detailed planning years in advance.
“No state or metropolitan area generally has enough money to build what they need to build,” said Jim Wild, executive director of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the agency overseeing the MetroLink study.
Cindy Stafford, an engineer with the Illinois Department of Transportation, said doing advance engineering for the I-270 bridge project helps it compete well with other projects for state and federal money.
“It’s more shovel-ready,” she said.
IDOT and its partner in the bridge planning, the Missouri Department of Transportation, say the Chain of Rocks span needs to be replaced because of its age and condition, increasing traffic volumes, narrow shoulders and relatively high amount of crashes.
The current bridge has four lanes, two in each direction. A new one would have room for three each way. That would match up, Stafford said, with plans to eventually widen I-270 to six lanes on each side of the river.
The bridge proposal also calls for realigning and reconstructing the I-270 interchange at Riverview Drive near the Missouri side of the bridge.
While neither state has set aside money for the bridge construction, it likely has a better chance of getting built than a new MetroLink line. After all, I-270 is already there and drivers have to keep crossing the river.
If the bridge isn’t eventually replaced, Stafford pointed out, “you just end up having more frequent and costly repairs” needed.
As for MetroLink expansion, St. Louis voters last April gave the project a big boost when they passed a half-cent sales tax increase, part of which would secure bonds to help build the Northside-Southside line.
But planners say federal money would be needed to fund up to half of the project, which is far from certain.
The proposed line generally would run from Interstate 55 and Bayless Avenue a bit south of the St. Louis-St. Louis County line to Interstate 70 and Goodfellow Boulevard.
Planners are considering alternate ways of connecting to and around the planned National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters to be built just northwest of downtown.
One version would run south of the site along Delmar Boulevard, another to the north along St. Louis Avenue.
The current study is updating a 2008 review of the route that didn’t contemplate the NGA, which was approved just last year. The line potentially could be extended into north St. Louis County and further into South County.
Meeting on I-70 outer roads
Also set for 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday is an open house at O’Fallon, Mo., City Hall on a second phase of that city’s revamping of its I-70 outer roads.
The plan calls for building a new eastbound south outer road between Highway K and Woodlawn Avenue and converting the existing north outer road (West Terra Lane) into a one-way westbound street.
Construction begins in March on the more extensive first phase of the project between Highway K and T.R. Hughes Boulevard to the east.