Details about several public transit projects currently underway in the bi-state region were discussed today during Citizens for Modern Transit’s (CMT) “Talking Transit” event, hosted via Zoom. Over 120 members, elected officials, stakeholders, transit riders and others attended the virtual forum to learn the latest about light rail expansion to MidAmerica Airport, the Northside-Southside Corridor Plan with St. Louis City and St. Louis County, the Secure Platform Plan, and Metro Transit operations. To view the discussion in its entirety, click here.
The panel discussion featured Patrick Judge, Principal of Gonzalez Companies and project manager for the Illinois Light Rail Expansion project to MidAmerica Airport; Taulby Roach, President and CEO of Bi-State Development; Kevin Scott, General Manager of Security for Bi-State-Development and lead on the Secure Platform Plan; and Charles Stewart, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Metro Transit, who provided an operations update. It was moderated by Kimberly Cella, Executive Director of Citizens for Modern Transit.
Judge kicked off the conversation by talking about MetroLink expansion in Illinois and detailing the significant movement seen over the last six months on the 5.2-mile extension of the MetroLink Light Rail System from the existing Shiloh-Scott Transit Center to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. This project includes a new MetroLink station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, a 5-mile extension of the MetroBikeLink bike trail from the Shiloh-Scott Transit Center to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, a 2.4-mile access roadway extending from Rieder Road to Airport Boulevard and a 0.3-mile extension of Rieder Road from Wherry Road to SAFB Cardinal Creek Gate. Tree removal and water crossings are underway. Facilities construction will begin soon followed by systems, roadway access and bike trail paving. A contract for the double track Facilities contract has been conditionally awarded, and the contract for the single track Facilities is out for bid. It was also noted that the St. Clair County Transit District, in coordination with IDOT Transit, is committed to supporting the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) community in the Metro East on this project. There is a 15 to 25 percent DBE participation goal, depending on the construction package.
From there, Roach provided an update on the Northside-Southside Corridor Plan with St. Louis City and St. Louis County. This included an updated overview of the Jefferson Alignment and the North St. Louis County Community Connector.
“Right now, we are in alternatives analysis in the City of St. Louis,” noted Roach. “We are looking at this alignment and making it as competitive as possible to compete for federal dollars and to fulfill the obligations we have to the public in both St. Louis City and St. Louis County to successfully develop light rail.”
Roach added that a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a Project Management Consultant for the project will be on the street shortly. He indicated St. Louis County should be releasing four possible alternative routes within the county portion of the alignment over the next several months. AECOM is leading the study for both the City of St. Louis and the St. Louis County.
The event also featured an update on the $52 million Secure Platform Plan. According to Scott, the plan is moving ahead with a phased approach on what will be 39 different projects – which represents each current MetroLink station as well as the new station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport – as part of five packages. This will allow for the plan to move forward expeditiously, while offering smaller construction packages, more contractor opportunities and the ability to take advantage of key learnings as each phase unfolds. The first phase will include four MetroLink stations in East St. Louis and the eastern edge of Belleville, including Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Emerson Park, Washington Park and College. The initial design phase is in process and construction will go out for bid in July. He also noted the most visible accomplishment to date on the Secure Platform Plan has been the opening of the Real Time Camera Center, which is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has transformed the Closed-Circuit Television system from reactive to proactive.
“This phasal approach will provide a cascading effect,” added Scott. “This means that as the first package moves to bid construction, package number two will enter the final design process, then when package two moves to bid construction, package number three will enter the final design process and so on. We are convinced that this will afford us the ability to take the fastest pathway to putting in gates, fencing and cameras, while remaining in consistent coordination with the overall fare collection integration.”
Stewart closed out the conversation by highlighting an uptick in transit ridership, with MetroBus experiencing a 5.2% increase and MetroLink a 7% increase over last year. He noted operator shortages – including a need for more than 200 bus operators, 18 MetroLink operators and 79 Metro Call-A-Ride operators as well as mechanics and electricians – is still impacting service. Stewart says another service adjustment will be made in March to improve service timing. Stewart outlined the new benefits package which will help to incentivize individuals to consider joining the team.
“This was a really quality conversation,” commented Cella. “We appreciate the updates and full transparency provided on the various projects and the status of ridership. We encourage the community to visit Citizens for Modern Transit’s website so they can hear this discussion in its entirety.”
CMT hosts quarterly “Talking Transit” events to keep members, elected officials, stakeholders, transit riders and others in the loop on issues and efforts influencing the local transit system. These educational gatherings feature guest speakers and panel discussions addressing a wide range of topics, including transit-oriented development, safety and security, best practices, service changes and more.