Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belleville Route for Metrolink Wins Approval Council Rejects Alternative Line along I-64

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Belleville Route for Metrolink Wins Approval Council Rejects Alternative Line along I-64

Article excerpt

Next stop on MetroLink: Belleville and points beyond.

The bistate region's planning agency voted without dissent Wednesday to approve a $340 million extension of the light-rail system through the northern edge of Belleville to a commercial airport under construction at Scott Air Force Base.

The decision, by the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council, disappointed those who had championed an alternative route along Interstate 64 to St. Clair Square before swinging east and south to the airport.

But John Baricevic, the St. Clair County Board chairman, could almost hear the bells clanging on Wednesday. "It's an important day and an important step in drawing the region together with a regional mass transit system," he said.

He and other Illinois political leaders had worked for the extension for almost a decade. In the last year, Baricevic led a campaign that resulted in voters approving - by a 2-1 ratio - a local sales tax to finance the local share of the extension.

"This was truly a grass-roots project," Baricevic said. "There were a tremendous amount of people who have done a tremendous amount of work, and many were on the losing route. There was great support."

Baricevic endorsed the Belleville-Swansea-Shiloh route, a decision he said was based on "economic development opportunities."

Pending congressional approval of the money, Illinois' MetroLink riders will roll through a landscape initially of East St. Louis' poor urban neighborhoods giving way to the homes and commercial areas of northern Belleville and finally through some farmland before arriving at Scott.

The MetroLink extension will begin where the line now ends - at Fifth Street and Missouri Avenue in East St. Louis.

From there, the trains will rumble for 24.8 miles along the abandoned CSXT railroad tracks through or near East St. Louis, Alorton, Centreville, Belleville, Swansea, Shiloh and finally Scott. …

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