Metro-East News

St. Clair County looks to reconstruct Front Street in East St. Louis in $8.1M project

A truck drives south on Front Street Wednesday in East St. Louis.
A truck drives south on Front Street Wednesday in East St. Louis. News-Democrat

St. Clair County is looking to reconstruct a stretch of Front Street in East St. Louis, a project officials say will help with economic development along the road.

Work on the $8.1 million project would take place along Front Street from Trendley Avenue in East St. Louis to where the road dead-ends in Fairmont City.

Front Street north of the Casino Queen is in bad condition and has flooding issues, said Terry Beach, executive director the county’s Intergovernmental Grants Department.

Beach added the project would include resurfacing of Trendley Avenue from Front Street to Main Street, the reconstruction of West Missouri Avenue from Front Street to B Street, and reconstruction of B Street from Missouri Avenue to River Park Drive.

If approved the work would most likely take two construction seasons and be completed by the mid-to-end of the summer 2017, Beach said.

The county is applying for a federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration totaling about $3.2 million. The EDA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Beach said the county expects to hear back from the EDA in a matter of weeks.

Beach said there are no pure county dollars as part of this project, other than staff time.

The Southwest Illinois Development Authority has pledged $1.5 million toward the project.

The Illinois Department of Transportation has pledged $2 million, the St. Clair County Transit District has promised $800,000, and the Metro East Park and Recreation District has pledged $500,000 toward the project.

Cargill, the Casino Queen and Bunge-SCF Grain in Fairmont City have each pledged to contribute $500,000 toward the project in a public-prviate partnership, Beach said.

County officials raised a little more than the anticipated need as a hedge, Beach said.

With the Illinois 3 relocation taking place, upgrading Front Street seemed like a natural fit, said Jason Klootwyk, the director of Interior Assets for Bunge.

He said the East St. Louis-Fairmont City area is an important corridor for the joint operation that handles grain origination and distribution to both domestic and international markets.

“It’s an important artery for us to operate,” Klootwyk said.

“(We’re) big supporters of infrastructure projects pretty much everywhere,” Klootwyk added. “It’s absolutely critical not just for our business, but the economy as a whole.”

With Cargill, the Casino Queen and a park all within close proximity of each other, making the road improvements is key for the customers of the businesses and people who would be in the area, said Fred Oelschlaeger, assistant vice president with Cargill Ag Horizons.

“This is an opportunity to separate the truck traffic from the casino traffic,” Oelschaeger said. “This enables everything to be down there, but gets it down there appropriately.”

Beach said the project is meant to help attract industry along Front Street. Much of the engineering for the project has already been completed.

The project would include improving Front Street to an industrial road by adding a thick concrete surface and widening the road to 30 feet, from its 20-to-24 foot footprint, so it could better handle truck traffic especially during harvest season, Beach said. About 500 trucks a day would go down the road.

Plans also include replacing a water main, installing new storm sewer lines, curb and gutter, and sidewalks, along Front Street.

West Missouri Avenue, B Street and Trendley all would be 24-feet wide after the proposed project.

A round-about also is proposed near the Casino Queen on River Park Drive to help with traffic congestion issues.

There also is a possibility of adding parks and trails as part of the project, Beach said.

St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern said the road project would be done to help the area attract more agribusiness and distribution companies along the river.

“It would get the trucks off of River Park Drive, which conflicts with people going to the Casino Queen, and also provide them direct access to Route 3, which now is connected to the new Mississippi River Bridge,” Kern said.

“That has opened this whole area to allow for significant commercial development along the East St. Louis riverfront that was not possible before the new bridge was put in,” Kern added.

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

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