CMT Transit Alliance weighs in on County’s MetroLink corridor study

Figure 25_LRT OptionsThe CMT Transit Alliance, representing a diverse group of organizations in the region, had the opportunity to weigh in with St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and his staff on the selection process for the future light rail corridor study in St. Louis County this week.   St. Louis County requested the opportunity to work with CMT and the CMT Transit Alliance to gather input regarding which of the three county-based light rail corridors should be studied.

Voters were promised in April 2010 that if Proposition A, the County half-cent sales tax, was passed, Metro would restore bus and rail service where it had been cut, as well as expand MetroLink.

The proposed corridor study is necessary in order to apply for federal funds from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for light rail expansion. Also, in 2010, the St. Louis County Council passed Ordinance No. 24,264 requiring that MetroLink expansion shall only be pursued if federal funding is part of the funding mechanism for the project.  Without federal funding, no future light rail expansion is possible. The corridor study will inform the community and the decision-makers about the possible location, costs, benefits, impacts, constructability and operational characteristics of the corridor under study.  Based on this information generated, a local recommendation on whether to advance a light rail project into the FTA New Starts program can be determined.

Three previously-studied MetroLink corridors included in the region’s long range transportation plan, Connected 2045, are in St. Louis County.  Those corridors include Daniel Boone (Clayton to Westport), MetroNorth (North Hanley Station/Lambert Airport to Florissant) and MetroSouth (Shrewsbury to Butler Hill Road).  While Connected 2045 recommends  each of these corridors as Tier II projects under the Illustrative Project list (projects that are regional transit priorities but have no funding), it does not specify which should receive priority.

Based on the input the County receives over the next couple of months, County Executive Stenger indicated at least one study will be conducted, and that there are potentially sufficient funds in the “Proposition A” account to conduct an additional study. The entire cost of the study (or studies) will be funded through the County sales tax fund, Proposition A.

While the selection of which cooridor to study will be made in the next few months, the study itself will take approximately 1 year to complete. The region must then decide what cooridor to submit for light rail expansion to the FTA New Starts program — whether the cooridor studied by the county, or another cooridor. One important selection criterion from the FTA will be whether the proposed project will solve transportation problems. Any study conducted will help the region evaluate which project corridors meet this and other FTA criteria that will increase the region’s chances of gaining funding from the FTA.

CMT’s Transit Alliance asked about possibilities for St. Louis County funding other corridor studies, and in particular the Northside-Southside cooridor was mentioned. According to St. Louis County, only St. Louis County corridors are under consideration for this study because none of the three have been studied to the level of detail that the Northside-Southside corridor has been studied in the City of St. Louis. St. Louis County aims to further analyze less-studied corridors to provide data to the region for an informed selection of a project corridor to the FTA New Starts program.

County Executive Stenger announced that St. Louis County would utilize an on-line survey to gather public input via the County’s website in addition to meeting with community groups.  As soon as the online survey is available, CMT will post.