Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announced this week the allocation of new funding that will make critical improvements to the bi-state region’s freight network.
“Illinois is at the heart of freight activity for the entire country,” Rauner said. “These are smart investments that help improve economic competitiveness. At the same time, communities will be less congested, and the movement of goods and services will be safer and more efficient.”
The funding will support five infrastructure projects that are named in the St. Louis Regional Freightway’s Priority Infrastructure Project List, projects identified by local business and industry leaders, elected officials and the Missouri and Illinois Departments of Transportation as having the most impact to the bi-state area’s freight economy.
The projects are being funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Competitive Freight Program, which aims to improve the mobility of freight at the local level. Administered by IDOT using federal funds, the grants were awarded on a competitive basis, with local, state and federal agencies, as well as private entities, eligible to apply.
“The region’s ability to successfully compete for and secure these grants is a testament to the collaboration and partnership that exists between elected officials, business leaders and other stakeholders in all eight counties we serve in the bi-state area,” said Mary Lamie, Executive Director of the St. Louis Regional Freightway. “This funding provides us with a tremendous opportunity to improve and enhance key elements of the region’s network of freight infrastructure, and improve our position as international freight center and multimodal hub.”
The Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis will receive $1.93 million through the program. The award is leveraging $500,000 in private investment to reestablish a previously existing track alignment in the East St. Louis area that will eliminate conflicts with four nearby highway crossings.
“For the past 15 years, we have seen explosive growth in barge transfer facilities along the Illinois riverfront,” said Mike McCarthy, President of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. “New facilities have been constructed and existing ones expanded. These are high-volume, efficient facilities. Our rail and road infrastructure has not kept pace.”
“Reestablishing the M&O Junction to the Conologue Main will allow us to use a route that has just two rail crossings. Trains will run at a higher speed and have a shorter travel distance,” McCarthy said. “The project will promote economic development, safety and reduce bottlenecks.”
In addition to rail improvements, investments will also be made to regional port infrastructure in the Metro East, which will greatly aid in sustaining freight and cargo movement on the Mississippi River. Through funding from the Competitive Freight Program, improvements will be made at America’s Central Port to the general cargo dock at the Granite City Harbor, a facility that supports the overall movement of nearly 3 million tons of commodities by river barge annually. In addition, funds will also be used to construct a new access road into the Port from southbound Illinois Route 3.
Dennis Wilmsmeyer, Executive Director of America’s Central Port, said funding from the state will create a tremendous impact on jobs, reduce delays and has the potential to attract new manufacturers to the area.
“The new access road will speed access to and from the warehouses, and open the heart of America’s Central Port’s industrial park to many manufacturers,” Wilmsmeyer said.
Other local projects receiving funding include:
- The I-270/Illinois 111 Interchange Reconstruction is a key element of the overall project to improve I-270 from I-70 in Missouri to Illinois Route 111, a heavily traveled and important regional freight corridor. The interchange reconstruction is aimed at improving safety, increasing travel efficiency and supporting the anticipated economic growth related to the continuing expansion at Gateway Commerce Center, Lakeview Commerce Center and the proposed 600-acre Lincoln Logistics Park located at the interchange of I-255 and I-270. (Awarded $13.6 million)
- The Cargill Elevator Road Project will reconstruct Cargill Elevator Road from Illinois Route 3 to the Mississippi River in Cahokia. This roadway serves as the only connection for the high volume of trucks (87% of total volume) traveling to and from the barge facilities along the Mississippi River. In addition to addressing the deteriorated condition of the road, improvements to roadway capacity are needed in this section of the Ag Coast of America that supports a 15-mile section of the Mississippi River with the highest level of barge handling capacity anywhere along the river. Cargill Elevator Road also provides access to several international grain terminals. (Awarded $800,000)