St. Clair County leaders don't know what it would cost to build a stop on the new St. Louis to Chicago high-speed rail line, they just know they want one. And so they are taking a costly gamble with your tax dollars.
The County Board voted 22-5 on Monday to spend $500,000 on the design and planning of an East St. Louis station. This isn't build it and they will come; this is plan it and hope the state will add a station -- and be willing to pay for it.
This approach is all backward. The county should have gotten the state to agree to another stop before committing local transportation dollars to designing it. Trains will be stopping in Alton and downtown St. Louis, so there's no guarantee the state will agree to add another station in between.
And as County Board member Nick Miller points out, the county is scrambling to find additional revenue. It just raised various county fees in lieu of a property tax increase, and it is asking voters to raise the sales tax rate to pay for a jail addition.
St. Clair County has better uses for $500,000 than spending it on wishful thinking.