St. Clair County is late getting on this train

March 9, 2014 

Is it just me or did the county's recent idea to build a high speed rail station in East St. Louis just materialize, as if from nowhere? I went up on the state's website for insight into the overallproject. I found no mention of an East St. Louis station in the planning, which dated back to 2004.

Too bad notions like this don't get vetted and voted on by county taxpayers before the checkbook gets opened and checks written.

In my old Air Force profession, air traffic control, we'd call this a pop-up -- an unexpected aircraft target that appears unannounced on the radar scope. Pop-ups aren't planned so they present special challenges. This scheme fits that criterion. Where will that reported $500,000 initial investment come from and what will it buy?

The BND article highlighted St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, who said the proposed station "will be highly successful," "help an under-served population in St. Clair County" and "help 270,000 people and beyond gain convenient ridership." He's at least right about one point. County voters often feel like an "under-served population." Kern may fancy himself a transportation whiz, but compare this venture with the success of his favorite pet rock, MidAmerica Airport.

Travelers might flock to a future East St. Louis station to embark on quick trips to Chicago in lieu of a three-mile jaunt to St. Louis to catch the train. Then again, they may not. How much is it worth to find out?

Bill Malec


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