Skip to content

FreightWeekSTL: Route 3 is a nationally significant heavy industrial corridor

 The Illinois Route 3 Corridor in Southwestern Illinois

 Illinois Route 3 from Alton to Columbia, Ill., is the backbone of a 60-mile-long corridor supporting the manufacturing and logistics industries in Southwestern Illinois running parallel to St. Louis along the Mississippi River and Interstate 255.

It is a corridor that is economically impactful and successful, features an accessible workforce with a skill concentration in manufacturing and distribution that far exceeds national averages and is optimized for manufacturing and logistics. These three attributes continue to attract national site selectors in a highly competitive industrial real estate market and serve as metrics that differentiate the region’s market from others.

“New businesses can be assured they are entering a market that has a high concentration of successful industrial businesses, which reduces site selection risk for like firms,” said Doug Rasmussen, CEO and managing principal of Steadfast City Economic & Community Partners. “The area has a deep track record of new capital investments resulting in business growth and additional expansion and profitability. The underlying fundamentals of Route 3 help businesses more easily achieve growth and success and their return on capital objectives.”

The corridor is home to well-known entities such as U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works, America’s Central Port (one of the largest freight hubs in the Midwest), Sauget Business Park and Union Pacific’s intermodal yard.

“We knew these assets were contributing to the bi-state St. Louis region’s recognition as a global logistics hub, however the incredible concentration of industrial, warehousing and distribution operations make it a prime location not only for existing businesses, but also future industrial site selection and economic growth,” said Mary Lamie (shown), head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway and executive vice president of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development.

Economically impactful and successful: This section of Illinois Route 3 connects businesses and consumers from north of Alton, Ill., to south of Waterloo, Ill., and provides access through the industrial heart of St. Louis’ Metro East area, including Wood River, Granite City, East St. Louis, Sauget and Dupo. The 60-mile corridor spans across 19 ZIP codes that are home to 6,170 businesses and 76,715 employees, with an unmatched concentration in the manufacturing and distribution industries. On average, each mile within the corridor boasts 100 businesses and 1,269 total workers, including 366 manufacturing/warehouse workers. Those workers account for earnings of $163 million per mile. Given this concentration, the corridor drives 45 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for the three-county area (Madison, Monroe and St. Clair), while representing 35 percent of the population (198,000 residents). This thriving hub for manufacturing and logistics generates $16 billion in annual business revenue and supports 221,881 direct and indirect jobs.

Accessible and highly skilled workforce: The accessible, good-paying jobs in the corridor attract workers from more than 1,000 different ZIP codes across three states, including Illinois, Missouri and Indiana. More than 22,000 of the workers are employed in the top two sectors within the corridor – manufacturing and transportation/warehousing – which respectively represent 14 percent and 13.8 percent of the total workforce. That is significantly greater than the St. Louis region and the United States, where manufacturing is just over 8 percent and transportation/warehousing is 5 percent of the total workforce. More than 20 types of manufacturing operations are present in the corridor, delivering a location quotient of 1.26 or more and indicating a noteworthy regional concentration.

Optimized for manufacturing and logistics: Companies already operating in the corridor benefit from the available workforce with requisite skills, and those looking to locate here will benefit from the labor pool and the corridor’s other locational advantages.

“It is centrally located within the nation and the region, home to the nation’s most efficient inland port, positioned at the crossroads of six Class I railroads with global connectivity via scheduled rail to coastal ports, and offers strategic access to national interstates and international passenger and cargo airports,” said Lamie. “This coupled with the availability of developable land makes the corridor ideal for anyone looking to establish a business in the manufacturing, logistics or distribution sector and leverage one location with global access.”

The Illinois Route 3 corridor has continued to evolve and grow by developing available land and repurposing vacant industrial sites through infrastructure investment and public-private partnerships. With these existing buildings and sites with heavy infrastructure in place (power, water, rail, roads), the region reduces capital investment costs for manufacturers and lowers barriers to entry, making site selection easier for emerging to medium size businesses.

The corridor also contains exceptional multimodal infrastructure that supports complex and integrated manufacturing operations and inbound and outbound transportation (including transloading between barge, rail, road and air), supporting speed of delivery that gives users a unique operational agility and competitive advantage that yields cost savings.

Eye on the future: This is not the first time this corridor was recognized as a trendsetter, and it will not be the last. Fifteen years ago, the federal government threatened to de-accredit the levees which protect the Illinois Route 3 corridor, limiting the potential of existing businesses and putting future development at risk. The corridor is vibrant today because of the major efforts made by regional business and government leaders to improve and fortify the levees so they would remain accredited, allowing the corridor to maximize its site selection advantages and attract capital investment and job growth.

Just as the region came together and passed a sales tax to fund the work needed to improve the levee system protecting the Illinois Route 3 corridor, regional leaders are working together to identify and advocate for funding for other infrastructure priorities, with additional improvements to Illinois Route 3 on the list.

“The Illinois Department of Transportation announced more than $20 million dollars of funding over the last several years for sections of the Illinois Route 3 corridor, and a total of $300 million in improvements is on the St. Louis Regional Freightway’s 2022 Priority Projects List,” Lamie said. “Completion of the improvements, which are partially funded and programmed for construction, will support long-term, high-paying job growth in manufacturing and transportation sectors, improve access to the Interstate 70 Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge, Sauget Industrial Park, and St. Louis Downtown Airport, and accelerate the redevelopment of additional properties along the corridor, ensuring continued growth and success.”

This story appears in the May issue of the Illinois Business Journal. For more stories from the issue, go to the Current Edition link at

Leave a Comment