The head of the St. Louis Freightway says Southwestern Illinois area infrastructure projects are being aided by newly announced state funding.
Executive Director Mary Lamie praised Tuesday’s announcement by Gov. Bruce Rauner of funding being made available through the state’s new Competitive Freight Program. The funds aim to improve the mobility of freight at the local level. Illinois Department of Transportation received 46 applications requesting close to $600 million in freight funds.
“And the projects in our region collectively received nearly $18.7 million,” Lamie said in an email.
• The projects include four that are on the St. Louis Regional Freightway’s list of priority infrastructure projects and two others that will also go a long way toward increasing the efficiency of the region’s rail freight network:
• The Interstate 270/Illinois Route 111 Interchange Reconstruction – a key element of the overall project to improve the heavily traveled I-270 corridor from I-70 in Missouri to Illinois Route 111, the interchange reconstruction is aimed at improving safety, increasing travel efficiency and supporting the anticipated economic growth related to the continuing expansion at Gateway Commerce Center, Lakeview Commerce Center and the proposed 600-acre Lincoln Logistics Park located at the interchange of I-255 and I-270. (Awarded $13.6 million)
• America’s Central Port Improvements (two projects) – Granite City Harbor Dock improvements will enhance the ability to safely transfer product to and from barges by installing a fender system that will help keep the barges from deteriorating the steel and repaving the dock surface, extending the life of the dock. The Industrial District Roadway Improvement will enhance the ability to move trucks into and out of the Port that is part of the Ag Coast of America. Today, one of the two access points into the port’s primary industrial park is on narrow roads through the business campus, ultimately causing traffic backups. The project will create a new turn-in and turn-out serving the port and resurface a main roadway, easing traffic flow, improving efficiency and enhancing safety. (Awarded $1.59 million and $1.09 million respectively.)
• Re-establish the M&O Junction – This Terminal Railroad Association project to re-establish the M&O Junction is described as high impact. The project will remove an estimated 40,000 truck trips annually and substantially reduce traffic delays in an area where trains routinely block the Illinois Route 3 grade crossing, resulting in hours of through delays each day. Upon project completion, TRRA will have the capacity to reroute riverfront rail traffic over fewer and less congested grade crossings, improving traffic flow on critical highway freight corridors during higher freight train flows. (Awarded $1.9 million)
• Illinois Route 3 Diversion Loop & Grade Separation – a key element of a high priority project to construct the Falling Springs Diversion bypass loop with a structure that carries traffic from Illinois Route 3 over the Alton & Southern Railroad between Monsanto Avenue and Queeny Avenue. Without improvements, this location will continue to experience hours of through-traffic delays each day. The project would eliminate two public rail crossings along a segment of Falling Springs Road. (Awarded $1.1 million)
• Cargill Elevator Road – This project aims to reconstruct Cargill Elevator Road from Illinois Route 3 to the Mississippi River in Cahokia. This roadway serves as the only connection for the high volume of trucks (87 percent of total volume) traveling to and from the barge facilities at the Mississippi River. In addition to addressing the deteriorated condition of the road, improvements to roadway capacity are needed in this section of the Ag Coast of America that supports a 15-mile section of the Mississippi River with the highest level of barge handling capacity anywhere along the river. Cargill Elevator Road provides access to several international grain terminals. (Awarded $800,000)
“Once again, the region’s ability to successfully compete for and secure these grants is a testament to the collaboration with public and private sector leaders that exists in the bi-state area,” Lamie said.
“Over the last year Dennis Wilmsmeyer, executive director of America’s Central Port; Bob Stock of Stock Trucking, Lebanon, Ill.; Mike McCarthy, president of Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis; Christopher Michael, corridor/multimodal transportation planner for East-West Gateway Council of Governments, and I have all participated in the IDOT Freight Advisory Council meetings, along with other industry leaders throughout the state. The council provided input for project criteria and project selection, helping to ensure that, when it came time to submit projects for funding consideration, the projects submitted would meet the criteria to improve safety, boost efficiency and grow the economy,” Lamie said.
The committee also provided an opportunity for regions throughout the state of Illinois to work collaboratively together with a common goal of improving freight efficiency and reliability, she said. The Freightway, along with the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois’ SITE and Public Policy committees, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce and Southern Illinois Builders Association have all been long time supporters of projects like the I-270/Ilinois Route 111 interchange and sent letters of support for several of these projects.
That support contributes “to the big win we’re celebrating today,” Lamie said.