State money has "fast-tracked" a proposed interchange intended to serve as a new entryway for Scott Air Force Base.
Construction on the Rieder Road interchange at Interstate 64 could begin as early as June 2014, according to St. Clair County Engineer Jim Fields. The interchange is part of a $59.1 million plan to widen the interstate and improve Rieder and the Cardinal Creek Gate at the base.
Col. David Almand, commander of the 375th Air Mobility Wing, said that a new transportation complex near the interchange would allow the base to consolidate four gates into three to better serve the 13,000-plus employees at the base.
"The base is working with St. Clair County and MidAmerica officials through our partnerships to look at and evaluate options for future development in the area as part of the proposed I-64 interchange at Rieder Road," Almand said. "One of the base's top priorities identified is the need to construct a new Cardinal Creek Gate Complex."
A commercial access gate within the proposed complex would be outside the base perimeter. The gate's remote location would better protect residents at the base, Almand said. The complex also would include a gate house with identification checking stations, truck inspection facility, weapon storage and cargo transfer station.
Almand said no final decisions about the proposed complex have been made.
Fields said the county is working within a "tight schedule" because state money became available earlier than anticipated.
"It's being fast-tracked and we are getting a lot of cooperation (with federal and state agencies) to resolve issues quickly," Fields said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation earmarked $40 million for the project as part of its multi-year construction program, an increase from the $28.2 million previously designated for the project. The base also budgeted $2.3 million for improvements to the gate.
Money for the interchange stems from the state's sale of bonds to finance its $14 billion Illinois Jobs Now! capital plan enacted in 2009.
IDOT also contributed an additional $500,000 for county engineering efforts in the current fiscal year, said spokeswoman Paris Ervin.
The project is needed to improve access to the base, Fields said. For example, the interchange will allow fuel to be delivered directly to the air field instead of trucked through residential areas of the base.
The project could spur industrial development near the interchange, but that would be secondary to the base's needs, Fields said.
"Anything built in that area would have to be compliant with airport needs," Fields said. "I believe the goal of the county has more to do with helping the air base than development."
Interstate 64 would be widened from four to six lanes between the interchange and Illinois 158 as part of the project. A timeline has not been set for the interstate work.
The interstate is six lanes between the Poplar Street Bridge and Green Mount Road exit, and four lanes east of Green Mount.
Project managers were awaiting approval from the Federal Highway Administration to declare that the project would have no significant environmental effect. Once given the go-ahead, design work will begin on the project's infrastructure.
"It's our goal to have our plans ready to go for letting (awarding bids for construction) in April and June of 2014," Fields said. "Now a lot of things could happen in the meantime, but that's our goal."
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at email@example.com or 618-239-2501.