Roads, it's all about roads. The St. Louis region has more lane-miles per person than any of America's 25
largest metro regions--nearly double the average.
Now, guess which county in the region has the most lane-miles? St. Clair County comes off the loser
with more than six times the average for an urban region!
The Texas Transportation Institute's latest Urban Mobility Report shows that cities which built enough
new lane-miles to keep up with population growth showed no less congestion than those which failed
to keep up with growth. Makes one wonder why a 41 mile Gateway Connector is being considered. In
two Connector study reports, it would take another 80 years to reach the 25-year growth projected.
New roads may not affect overall congestion, but they do aid sprawl. Herbie Markwort, writing for
Gateway Streets, reported that sprawl--not congestion--accounts for nearly 90% of commute time in
the St Louis region.
Don't forget it's important to realize that construction spending on one project means other
opportunities are lost. It costs roughly $2.5 million to build one new lane-mile. By contrast, to repave a
lane costs $300,000--ranging from $200,000 (local/state road) to $750,000 (interstate).
So, by adding one new lane-mile in Illinois, 8 miles of existing lanes have no funding to keep them in
good condition. A 2011 study indicated that only 46% of Illinois roads were in good condition. The
cost directly hits home to drivers on these unrepaired roads. Studies show it costs an extra $335/yr. in
vehicle maintenance. Figures show that St. Clair County should direct its efforts into maintaining the
huge amount of lane-miles, not building new ones.
The currently planned $40 million Reider Road interchange is designed to support the white elephant,
MidAmerican Airport. This is the perfect example of what not to do. That $40 million could repair 133
miles of St. Clair roadway/bridges.
There are examples of beneficial local roadwork in recent years. Highway departments have improved
some roads. Examples include additional lanes on I-64; extensive work along Rt. 158 to Millstadt and
Main Street Belleville; new lanes and/or turn lanes for arterials like Rt. 159, Rt. 15, and Troy-O'Fallon
Road at U.S. 40; plus the intensified effort to both rebuild aging bridges and pursue biking and pedestrian
"Build it and they will come" is either false or it completely by-passed the Metro-East. Metro St. Louis
has the most lane-miles of the 25 largest U.S. cities---nearly twice the average. But population and
business growth is almost non-existent. Within this area, St. Clair County is paved to the max.......six
times more than the average! It's time to put tax money in the right place by not creating new lane-
miles. Remember nothing changes unless you, the taxpayer, act. Call your representative today.
Jan Daker, of Belleville, is a board member of Citizens for Smart Growth: Stop 158.