Air cargo and spy mapping facilities aside, it is good to see the Greater St. Louis Area acting greater rather than lesser. Our region is seeing the spark of something important with the group trying to tune up the engine that drives our jobs and economy: Transportation.
The St. Louis Regional Freightway is leaders, business and government from both sides of the river working on the roads, river, rail, air and pipeline networks. Transportation is our area’s obvious business because we are smack in the middle of the country, a fact as obvious to our prehistoric ancestors as it is today.
We can’t build a bridge without participation from both sides of the river. Highway and rail improvements on one side are worthless if they don’t connect to usable infrastructure on the other.
Our planning has often been haphazard or uncoordinated — we almost lost $239 million in federal funding for the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge because Illinois and Missouri were feuding over details, our airports compete and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency relocation has been a parochial blood feud. Talking about our needs, setting priorities and then working to find the money is more efficient and creates the rising tide that lifts all boats.
If one marketing message about our area goes out to the nation’s intermodal, rail, barge, truck and air cargo companies, the impact will be much greater than if Granite City and Chesterfield and Bethalto and St. Louis and Mascoutah separately try to sell their facilities. Freight is a way to build community cooperation that can close economic and geographic divides.
Up to $1.6 billion is needed to fix local transportation infrastructure, with a new Merchants Bridge, Interstate 270 bridge and reworked sections of I-270 in Missouri and Illinois carrying the biggest price tags. That size of a challenge needs a coordinated effort to prioritize and find the right mix of private, state and federal funding.
Building bridges and making transportation connections can help the people of eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois build bridges and make connections.