Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rail Link Gets Nod on Route County Leaders Favor Belleville Extension

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rail Link Gets Nod on Route County Leaders Favor Belleville Extension

Article excerpt

After a lively community debate, St. Clair County leaders deciding the fate of the MetroLink extension say they favor the route through Belleville instead of one along Interstate 64 to St. Clair Square.

The decision has yet to be made formally, but it's a good bet that light-rail riders will roll through the towns and farms of central St. Clair County.

County Board Chairman John Baricevic, the key person who will influence the decision, says he supports that route. He has the backing of a majority of St. Clair County representatives who will vote on the decision.

The favored route would begin at MetroLink's busiest stop, at Fifth Street and Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis. From there, it would wind along the abandoned CSXT railroad tracks through the communities of Alorton, Centreville, Belleville, Swansea and Shiloh. The destination: a new commercial airport under construction near Scott Air Force Base.

The competing proposal would put tracks along I-64 through Washington Park, Caseyville, Fairview Heights - including a stop at St. Clair Square - and O'Fallon.

Baricevic said Tuesday that his decision came down to a matter of "economic development opportunities."

He said, "It got down to a decision - do we put light rail along an interstate that's . . . an existing economic corridor and enhance that corridor, or do we put light rail somewhere else and attempt to develop a new, second corridor?"

Along either route, light rail will benefit the whole county, he said.

"If my beliefs are accurate, the future growth will benefit all and make St. Clair County stronger and an integral part of the region."

On Feb. 23, the metropolitan region's planning body, the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, will decide officially which of the two routes to choose. Its decision is subject to review by the federal government.

Les Sterman, East-West Gateway's executive director, has said the board would defer to the judgment of the Illinois representatives, including the five from St. Clair County.

MetroLink now operates from North Hanley Road through downtown St. Louis and across the Mississippi River to Fifth Street and Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis. …

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