Metro East project brings top transportation prize to Illinois for second year in a row
COLLINSVILLE – The Illinois Department of Transportation announced that a joint effort with Missouri to improve mobility and access throughout the Metro East region has earned the Grand Prize in the 2019 America’s Transportation Awards, the top honor for state departments of transportation.
The award marks the second consecutive year IDOT has won the honor, presented at the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials annual meeting in St. Louis.
“While we are happy to bring home this award once again, we are even more proud of the work we do every day on behalf of Illinois,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman. “These are more than just projects to us, but ways to make our communities even better places to build a career, grow a business and raise a family.”
The partnership between Illinois and Missouri produced several bridge projects over the past decade to improve connections to jobs and tourist destinations in the metropolitan area.
The nomination, selected from a field of 81 nominations from 39 states, also was in the running for the People’s Choice Award determined by online voting. The project received 12,443 votes, the sixth-highest total in the contest.
“All of these projects demonstrate the many ways transportation improves the quality of people’s lives,” said Jim Tymon, AASHTO’s executive director. “Some of these projects increased mobility by giving commuters more travel options, including biking and walking. Others spurred economic development, cut traffic congestion or improved safety. And while we honor today’s champions, the biggest winners are by far the American people.”
IDOT will be donating its $5,000 share of the prize to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Upward Bound program. The program provides educational opportunities for middle and high school students in East St. Louis, Cahokia, SIUE East St. Louis Charter, Brooklyn and Madison, with a focus on encouraging low-income, first-generation college students to seek post-secondary education. Upward Bound and IDOT have long partnered to teach kids about engineering careers.
In last year’s America’s Transportation Awards, the Interstate 55-Lake Shore Drive interchange in Chicago took home the Grand Prize, a first for IDOT.
Here is a description of the partnership that won IDOT the award:
Because of the proximity to the Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers, St. Louis serves as a major freight corridor. Ten years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see wait times of 45 minutes or more on the Poplar Street Bridge, which carries the traffic and freight from I-64, I-55, and I-70 across the Mississippi River into St. Louis City. The solution: an $801 million collaborative effort between the Missouri Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation that included the relocation of one interstate to a new, four-lane cable bridge named the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge. The new bridge gave the region some much needed “breathing room” and allowed the states to make significant improvements to the Poplar Street Bridge, including new lane ramps on the bridge and an extra lane between St. Louis City and St. Clair County, Illinois. A park replaced what was the existing interstate, with bicycle and pedestrian access, providing travel options to access the Mississippi River. This project also gave the department an opportunity to better connect travelers with the iconic St. Louis Arch. With these improvements, St. Louis witnesses up to a 30 percent increase in traffic across the river – helping improve the economy and tourism across the city.