Yesterday marked the opening of Phase II of the MetroBikeLink trail in St. Clair County, IL with an official ribbon cutting ceremony. However, even before the ‘official’ opening, residents demonstrated just how important a multi-modal system is to the region. Contractors on the project reported that they were constantly asking runners, walkers, bikers to hold off on using the dirt path then gravel path and finally paved trail until construction was complete. Residents and visitors proved they were just too excited to wait! I guess in St. Louis the saying might be true, “If you build it, they will come.” They may even come before you are finished building it. Even during the press conference, walkers, bikers and others paid the 50 or more in attendance no attention as they enjoyed the new trail.
The new 2.2-mile MetroBikeLink Trail extension is located between the Swansea MetroLink Station and the Memorial Hospital Station. The bike and walking trail connects from the Memorial Hospital MetroLink Station to Belleville’s North End Park, totaling 6.9 miles of completed trails and helping to further the evolving multi-model transportation system.
The new segment includes a grade-separated bridge over Fullerton Road and drinking fountains at both the Swansea and Memorial Hospital stations. The project came in at a total cost of $3.3 million, more than half of which was funded by the St. Clair County Transit District. Another 36 percent came from the Federal Transit Administration, while the remaining funds were contributed by the Metro East Park and Recreation District.
Construction was completed by seven local contractors, representing five labor unions and creating more than 22,000 man hours in St. Clair County. Contractors included Prime – Illinois Excavators, Inc., Mayer Landscaping Co., Ehret Plumbing, Gleeson Asphalt, Ray LaFore Trucking Co., Fournie Contracting, Helitech and PJR Steel Erection Co.
“This project demonstrates just how effective our multi-modal system is in St. Clair County,” said St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern. “We are seeing a diverse group using the trail system including recreational walkers in the early morning hours; bikers and walkers during the morning and evening commutes; and families, students and individuals throughout the day. By adding this 2.2 mile segment, we are further opening the system to our residents and visitors alike. It is a great way to see a slice of life in Illinois along the trail system. Congratulations go to the St. Clair County Transit District and its partners on delivering a value-added piece of public infrastructure for this region.”
Those in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony heard from Region VII FTA Administrator Mokhtee Ahmad; Mark Kern, St. Clair County Board Chair; John Nations, Metro President & CEO; and Mike Buehlhorn, Executive Director of the Metro East Park and Recreation District, before being invited to explore the new trail. St. Clair County Transit District representatives were also on hand to demonstrate how to use the MetroBus bicycle racks at the station, helping area commuters understand how they can stretch their trips farther by linking biking with the use of MetroBus or MetroLink. Cyclists can take their bikes on MetroLink for no extra charge. They just need to stand at the back of the MetroLink train cars to load their bicycles.
Moving forward, the St. Clair County Transit District hopes to extend the trail 3.5 miles westward to the Fairview Heights MetroLink Station and 3.5 miles eastward to the Shiloh-Scott MetroLink Station.