The St. Louis Regional Freightway’s 2023 Priority Projects List includes 25 projects representing a total investment of more than $3.8 billion, up from $2.75 billion last year. More than $2 billion of the total covers infrastructure projects that have recently been completed, are already funded and under construction or expected to start in 2022 and 2023, or are programmed to begin within the next few years. The list, which represents the infrastructure needs of the manufacturing and logistics industries in the Eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois area, indicates tremendous progress on a range of projects that will strengthen critical roads, bridges, rail infrastructure, and port and airport facilities across the bi-state St. Louis region.
“These projects are supporting multimodal connectivity and providing global access to shippers and carriers throughout the world,” said Asim Raza, who leads the Freight Development and Needs Analysis Committee comprised of public sector influencers and supply chain leaders who represent freight-related interests of the St. Louis region’s business community. Raza is the Chief Legal Officer and Director of Corporate Affairs for the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA).
TRRA owns the Merchants Bridge, one of the nation’s primary east-west rail corridors serving the nation’s second largest rail hub by car interchange volume and third largest by gross tonnage. The $222 million project to replace the Merchants Bridge linking Missouri and Illinois in downtown St. Louis remains the region’s highest infrastructure priority and is a model for public-private partnerships. In Winter 2020, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded TRRA a $22.45 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant toward replacement, while TRRA is providing 90% of the construction costs. The project includes the removal and replacement of the three river-span trusses, seismically retrofitting the existing river piers, and improving the east approach. Two of three newly constructed trusses have already been installed, and the third will be installed later this year. The entire project should be completed in late 2022.
Another significant update for the 2023 list includes $39 million in funding that has been secured for the Interstate 70 (I-70) bottleneck improvements from Wentzville Parkway to Route Z - the number one bottleneck location in the St. Louis region. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2023. The updated 2023 Priority Projects list also has identified the Illinois Route 3 Connector between Illinois Route 3 and Illinois Route 203 as a new priority. The $81.5 million project, which is funded, aims to improve traffic flow and network connectivity within the project area.
Other newly added but currently unfunded projects include an estimated $456 million for Interstate 55/Interstate 70 lane additions from Interstate 255 (I-255) to Interstate 270 (I-270) in Illinois, a high-capacity regional crossroad that spans 10 miles; the $52 million St. Louis Multi-Modal Freight Yard Expansion at Madison Yard (IL), a project focused on expanding railcar capacity by approximately 1,500 cars at Terminal Rail Road Association of St. Louis’ Madison Yard in Venice, Illinois; and a proposed new terminal at St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL) in St. Louis, the largest and most utilized airport in Missouri.
The list now includes a total of $1.2 billion for projects along I-270, and more $700 million in funding has been approved for the improvements in this corridor in north St. Louis County (MO) and Madison County (IL), including the Chain of Rocks Bridge replacement over the Mississippi River which connects the two states.
A series of projects on I-70 have also been featured in recent years, and that list was expanded to include interchange reconfiguration and safety enhancements on I-70 from the St. Louis city limit to Benton Street. The $168 million project is not yet funded. Another addition on I-70 calls for $27.94 million to add additional capacity from Wentzville Parkway to Warren County, and that unfunded project is included in Tier 3 of the Missouri Department of Transportation’s (MoDOT) recently released High Priority Unfunded Needs. In all, more than $500 million in improvements to I-70 are on the list.
While not yet elevated to the status of a new project, the list does include a new partnership between Kansas City and the St. Louis region to highlight the importance of reconstructing and adding capacity to Missouri’s statewide I-70 corridor. The catalyst for the new collaboration is the inclusion of a financial placeholder for the reconstruction of and added capacity on I-70 among MoDOT’s recently released High Priority Unfunded Needs.
For True Manufacturing, Inc. which is headquartered off I-70 in O’Fallon, Missouri, any improvements to I-70 are welcome and will support its continued growth. True Manufacturing has facilities located to the west in Mexico, Missouri, to the south in Pacific, Missouri and to the north in Bowling Green, Missouri, which means 88 trucks per day traverse I-70 traveling between the headquarters facility and its other facilities.
“Our recovery (pandemic) and growth strategies are paramount,” Jones said. “For us, things that continue to support growth and the ease of transit and logistics is key, because we’re rooted here in Missouri. We are contributing to the logistics and the development of manufacturing activities. We’re really on the upswing and we would like to see the infrastructure follow that path as well.”
Several existing projects on the 2023 Priority Projects List also saw modifications to their scope and budgets, contributing to the dramatic 38% increase in the total estimate for projects on the list with a proposed budget.
The Priority Projects List is compiled annually by the St. Louis Regional Freightway’s Freight Development Committee. Business and industry leaders work directly with local and state officials and the Illinois DOT and MoDOT to set infrastructure priorities by helping them to understand how infrastructure and efficiency impact on-time delivery and costs. The ongoing regional effort to compile and build consensus for this list remains a key accomplishment of the organization and plays a vital role in helping to ensure various parties are familiar with the priorities before they see them on a grant application.
Mary Lamie, Executive Vice President of Multi Modal Enterprises at Bi-State Development which oversees the St. Louis Regional Freightway as one of its enterprises, credits the success of the 2023 Priority Projects List to the organization’s Freight Development Committee.
“Our Freight Development Committee work with our many public and private partners to make sure we understand the needs of our manufacturing and logistics industries and can speak with one voice to ensure all necessary parties are familiar with the region’s infrastructure priorities, understand why they are priorities and can advocate for funding for them,” said Lamie. “This list serves an important role in strengthening the region’s infrastructure as the St. Louis Regional Freightway works to grow the $6 billion in goods moving through the St. Louis area by road, rail, river and runway.”