A decade ago, the Gateway Connector seemed like a great idea. We were among the many people who endorsed the concept.
But that was before we knew that MidAmerica Airport would never really take off, before the Great Recession, before growth in St. Clair County slowed to a crawl and unemployment shot up, before the Mississippi River levees were deemed in to be in dire shape, and before Illinois became one of the most financially distressed states in America.
What seemed like a good idea in 2004 frankly looks ludicrous in 2014. Even if there were a pressing need for a new highway in the metro-east, which there isn’t, the state would be hard-pressed to fund it.
Proponents seem to be hoping for another “build it and they will come” moment. But as we learned from the airport, that doesn’t always work. There is still room for plenty of growth along Interstate 255. Now that the levees have been strengthened, that’s the place for growth opportunities.
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The Illinois Department of Transportation is holding hearings on the feasibility of the project Dec. 10 in Columbia and Dec. 11 in O’Fallon. We encourage people to attend and speak up.
Our message to IDOT is to shelve plans for the Gateway Connector, and use available dollars to maintain and improve roadways in the core of the metro-east.