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Project snags in Metro East

    Consulting engineers are trying to figure out how to bring the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail line across the Mississippi River to its destination in downtown St. Louis. However, once planning is completed, there is no money for any construction on the project south of Granite City.
    “Right now I don’t believe there is any additional funding available for high-speed rail,” said Scott Speegle, the passenger rail marketing manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation. “But, two years or three years from now — sometime down the road — we’re hopeful. The reason these studies are necessary though at this time is they put us in a position so we’re ready to jump on money if and when it becomes available. Other states that haven’t done the studies will be behind us. If we didn’t do the studies and three years down the road there’s a pot of money that opens up for high-speed rail, we wouldn’t be able to get it.”
    The same is true for an area in Springfield and the northern end of the line in the Chicago area as well. Engineers are currently evaluating elevating the tracks through Springfield as an alternative to the many at-grade crossings in the city.
    In the stretch between Joliet and downtown Chicago, engineers are considering moving Amtrak from the Metra Heritage Corridor south to the Metra Rock Island District Corridor. The Metra Heritage Corridor is notoriously congested and the tracks are in poor shape, according to Speegle.
    “They’re looking at what would need to be done to make that move feasible and they’re also evaluating the possibility of a new station somewhere between Chicago and Joliet,” Speegle said.
    On the St. Louis end, engineers are analyzing two Mississippi River crossings to determine which would work best: the Merchants Bridge in Venice or the MacArthur Bridge in East St. Louis. A local group is pushing for the inclusion of a new Amtrak station in East St. Louis. It’s been reported that $500,000 has been allotted to pay for preliminary planning of this station but the source of those funds has not been identified. Speegle said that it was not being funded by IDOT, as is the other planning work, and that he did not know where that money was coming from. He did say that the East St. Louis station would only be considered if the optimal route to the St. Louis station at 14th and Clark Streets would be over the MacArthur Bridge.
    On Oct. 18, a small group of public officials and clergy held a rally in East St. Louis in support of the proposed Amtrak station development.
    The idea of another station, however, is strongly opposed by both Madison County and the city of Alton. Alton has been working for years on relocating its existing Amtrak station to the former Robert P. Wadlow Municipal Golf Course on Homer Adams Parkway. Development of the new $17.3 million station, which will also bring in bus service from Madison County Transit, is fully funded and under construction. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.

p27 sheet pileA sheet pile wall is being constructed at the new South Harbor project of America’s Central Port. This picture was taken recently by Phil Sholl, the port district’s project coordinator.    America’s Central Port will substantially increase its role as a national hub for freight movement when its South Harbor project is completed, officials say.
    Construction of the harbor terminals began in mid-October and will conclude next summer, wrapping up  investment of more than $45 million at the Mississippi River facility in Madison.
    The 1,200-acre mixed-use business and industrial park is owned and operated by the Tri-City Regional Port District. The South Harbor terminals are the second phase of a multi-phase project that began almost four years ago.
    The new phase will include completion of a high-capacity conveyor system that will be used for loading river barges with commodities brought into the port via truck and rail. Those commodities are mainly goods like corn and soybeans.
    Port Executive Director Dennis Wilmsmeyer said the location of the harbor south of Locks 27 in Granite City provides a unique opportunity for efficient cargo movement.
    With the new southern access, the port will become the Mississippi River’s northernmost, lock-free port. The port’s current main harbor, the North Harbor, is upstream of Locks 27 and all barge traffic using that end of the port must lock through to get downstream. Having the South Harbor will be smoother sailing, Wilmsmeyer said.
    “Putting us south of Locks 27 takes that (inconvenience) out of the equation; we’ll no longer have that lock to contend with in the movement of products down river,” Wilmsmeyer said.
    The South Harbor work will set the stage for growth, he said.
    “We are seeing that certain freight commodities want to come to St. Louis,” Wilmsmeyer said. “The South Harbor will enable us to shift some freight from our North Harbor and use both harbors to meet this growing need for the region.”

p30 theatrePhoto courtesy Miner’s Institute Foundation

The Miner’s Theatre on Main Street in Collinsville. Supporters hope to generate enough money and labor to restore the theater in time for its 100th anniversary in 2018.
    COLLINSVILLE — One hundred years ago, coal was king in Collinsville, and the miners were the loyal subjects who pulled it out of the ground.
    The tunnels were everywhere.
    “You could walk from one side of the city to the other, in the coal mines,” Leah Joyce said.
    It was hard and dirty work, and the sweat and toil gave rise to the need for recreation.
    “So, in 1916, one of the miners convinced his fellow coworkers that a public theater and a union hall should be built,” Joyce said. “They went to the locals and got them to agree to build the theater. Each coal miner gave 1 percent of his meager coal mining salary to fund the building.”
    Two years later, the doors to the Miner’s Theatre opened, and a future landmark was in the making. Now, nearly a century removed, Joyce is heading up an effort to restore the theater to its glory days, in time for its 100th birthday in December 2018. The labor of love is going to take labor to help get it done.
    The theater is formally known as the Miner’s Institute and is so labeled on the terra cotta cap on the front of the building, located at 204 W. Main St. For most people who’ve passed through the doors, the structure is simply Miner’s Theatre.
    The facility has played witness to much of the cultural development of Collinsville and today serves as an anchor of the Uptown area. Joyce is well suited to her role. She is coordinator of Uptown Collinsville for the city and is president of the Miner’s Institute Foundation, the latter a volunteer position.
    Miner’s Theatre has played host to union gatherings, high school plays, graduations, movies, performing arts productions, vaudeville and operas.

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Simmons-Building-cloudswThe Simmons Hanly Conroy headquarters building in Alton.

Firm makes the prestigious list for second consecutive year

Simmons-Logo-2015 BLF Silver Standard    ALTON – Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC, a nationwide complex litigation firm headquartered in Alton, has been highly ranked for the second consecutive year in the “Best Law Firms” list by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers.
    In 2014 and 2015, the firm received metropolitan St. Louis Tier 1 and Tier 2 rankings in the practice areas of personal injury litigation – plaintiffs and product liability litigation – plaintiffs, respectively.
    “We are honored to receive this ranking for the second year in a row,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Chairman John Simmons. “Our attorneys work hard to give a voice to people across this nation who are often unable to speak for themselves. For our clients and colleagues to recognize our dedication is extremely gratifying.”
    The 2015 rankings are based on the highest number of participating firms and highest number of client ballots on record. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must have a lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, which recognizes the top 4 percent of practicing attorneys in the United States.
    Earlier this fall, Simmons Hanly Conroy Managing Partner Michael Angelides, Shareholders Nick Angelides and Perry Browder, and Of Counsel attorney J. Conard Metcalf were included in The Best Lawyers in America 2015 list.
    Firms included in the 2015 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise, according to Best Lawyers.
    “For five years, we have combined massive amounts of hard data with peer reviews and client assessments to develop our law firm rankings,” says Steven Naifeh, CEO and co-founder of Best Lawyers, in a press release. “Increasingly, clients tell us that ours are the most thorough, accurate, and helpful rankings of law firms available anywhere.”
    Clients and peers were asked to evaluate firms based on the following criteria: responsiveness, understanding of a business and its needs, cost-effectiveness, integrity and civility, as well as whether they would refer a matter to the firm and/or consider the firm a worthy competitor.
    The national and metropolitan first-tier rankings will be featured in the “Best Law Firms” General Counsel Publication, which is distributed to 30,000 general counsel lawyers and in digital format to more than 60,000 private practice lawyers worldwide. The rankings in their entirety are posted online at http://bestlawfirms.usnews.com.
    About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC
    Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving intellectual property infringement and business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.