Metro-East News

Study planned to expand MetroLink in St. Louis County; no plans for Illinois

St. Louis County, along with the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, is looking to study expanding MetroLink.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger requested the council of governments add a corridor study to a long-range plan, said Jerry Blair, director of Transportation Planning for the council of governments.

The feasibility study would look at adding one or two lines to see whether the concept makes sense, Blair said.

A study would be preceded by public input sessions to help determine where a line should go.

The lines being considered are a MetroNorth line from Lambert-St. Louis to Florissant, a MetroSouth line form Shrewsbury to Butler Hill Road, and the Daniel Boone line from Clayton to Westport.

Public input would help determine which line to study, said Cordell Whitlock, director of communications for St. Louis County executive’s office.

Currently there are two lines on MetroLink. The light rail system goes as far east as Scott Airforce Base. The red line extends to Lambert Airport, and the blue line extends to Shrewsbury.

A study would cost about $1 million, money that would require approval from the St. Louis County Council.

A feasible study would look to see if a line can be built, the possible costs, how much ridership it would have, the possibility of surrounding development, and the chance of competing for the small pot of available federal money, Blair said.

Blair added no concept or feasibility studies are planned for the Metro East. Studies, which are now a decade old, for extending lines to Edwardsville and Alton never went past the concept stages, Blair said.

Funding for the project that would have cost hundreds of millions of dollars would have required a new tax, which no one thought was advisable, Blair said.

Money for the study in St. Louis County will come from a sales tax for transportation alternative approved by voters.

“Light rail is a very high quality service and promotes economic development and provides good transit service,” Blair said. “Ridership will appeal to a lot of people. There are people who won’t take the bus, but will take the train. It’s a hard fixed service and does draw development.”

Blair added younger people also would be attracted to expanded rail service.

“We’re seeing younger adults want a different urban environment,” Blair said. “One of the things is transit, particularly rail transit. They find it very attractive.”

Whitlock added the county executive’s office wants to get moving on this as soon as possible as there are many people who are aging, as well as younger adults who rely on public transportation.

“Stenger’s vision includes expansion of light rail,” Whitlock said.

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at jbustos@bnd.com or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.

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