Lodge 6078 Desoto/St. Louis

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Illinois projects still top priority for Freightway organization

ST. LOUIS — Renovation of the Merchants Bridge and replacement of the I-270 Chain of Rocks Bridge along with related highway improvements between Illinois Route 111 and Interstate 70 remain two of the top transportation-related projects in the St. Louis region, according to officials with St. Louis Regional Freightway.

Mary Lamie, executive director of St. Louis Regional Freightway, and Mike McCarthy, president of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis and chairman of Freightway’s Freight Development and Needs Analysis Committee, talked about those priorities during FreightweekSTL, a four-day conference that ended Thursday.

“Infrastructure is a national issue,” McCarthy said, adding it is also the key to economic development. “The trick is to identify the most important (projects).”

He said the group’s four main criteria are economic impact, intermodal impact, efficiency and safety.

The region’s top project is the rehabilitation of the Merchants Bridge, a rail bridge between the city of Madison and St. Louis. It is one of two rail bridges in the St. Louis area.

The bridge was built in 1889, and without significant improvements would probably have to be taken out of service in the next 10 years, McCarthy said. The Merchants Bridge is the sixth busiest rail bridge on the Mississippi River.

He noted that the bridge is also limited because only one train can cross at a time.

The $200 million project would be funded through a combination of private funds and federal money.

That includes a U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant applied for in November, with announcements on funding expected sometime this summer.

“The project is a perfect example of a public/private partnership,” he said, adding that if construction started this year the project could be finished by 2022.

Lamie talked about other projects, including the proposed I-270 work.

She said the entire project would cost about $1.2 billion, and is considered a “mega-project” that would take about 17 years to complete without a concerted effort by stakeholders to emphasize the need for the project and funding.

Another very important project is the replacement of the Lenox Tower and track realignment in Mitchell.

The Lenox Tower was built in 1924 and controls major railroad junctions serving Amtrak and five Class-A railroads using antiquated switching equipment.

She said the system is unable to accommodate any growth, and severely limits the 66 trains that go through the area daily.

Locally, $22.5 million in improvements at America’s Central Port was also listed.

Other Illinois projects include:

• MidAmerica St. Louis Airport’s distribution improvements – $45 million.

• Improvements on I-64 from Green Mount Road to Illinois Route 158 in O’Fallon – $20 million.

• Kaskaskia Regional Port District improvements – $8.2 million.

• Illinois Route 3 access improvements near Sauget – $147 to $192 million.

• I-255/Davis Street Ferry Road interchange in Dupo – $40 million.

• I-255/Fish Lake (Ramsey Road) interchange, Columbia – $27 million.

• Illinois Route 158 expansion from Illinois Route 161 to Illinois Route 177 in Shiloh – $10 million.

Article published by Scott Cousins for thetelegraph.com

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