Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hundreds of Homes Face Razing for New Highway

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hundreds of Homes Face Razing for New Highway

Article excerpt

St. Louis County officials want Interstate 170 extended as a major expressway south from Highway 40 to Interstate 55. And they want it built as soon as possible.

Officials are looking at alternative financing to help move up construction, says Larry Mooney, executive assistant to County Executive George "Buzz" Westfall.

The southern extension of I-170 is one of several new transportation proposals being considered as part of a 1 1/2-year cross-county corridor study on ways to ease traffic congestion. On Tuesday, consultants unveiled detailed information on a variety of MetroLink and highway proposals reaching from central St. Louis to Frontenac and from Florissant to Oakville. Among them were options to extend I-170 south. Consultants for a cross-county transportation study say the I-170 expressway's cost could reach $616.6 million. They also estimate it could require all or part of 375 residential, business and other properties. "If we don't build the expressway, we won't have South County integrated into the regional transportation network," Mooney said. Mooney says the county would like to see the route follow the rights of way of the Burlington Northern and former Terminal railroads. Mooney said the alternative financing would pay for engineering, design and right-of-way costs. Michael J. Dooley, the county's director of highways and traffic, said construction could begin in 10 years if the county had to wait for state and federal funds for the preliminary work and land purchases. If the county could pay for that work now, construction could begin at least five years earlier, he said. Mooney said the state and federal governments would repay the county once the money becomes available. One option, Dooley said, is a transportation corporation that could issue bonds for preliminary work and land purchases. The corporation would use funds from county sources to pay interest on the bonds until federal and state highway funds would become available to retire them. Making the extension a toll road, "is not a realistic option," Mooney said. County officials would not know until late spring or early summer whether alternative financing is feasible. Maps provided by the cross-county consultants show that the Terminal Railroad expressway route would take properties mainly alongside the railroad. Douglas Campion, head of the consultant team from Sverdrup Civil Inc., said his engineers tried to minimize the taking of property. He said the Burlington Northern right of way provided the only clear path for an expressway south of I-44. But he said the railroad tracks are on all parts of the right of way. And the railroad is continuing to use them, he said. Mooney called the need for taking the property regrettable. "We will work with the. . . (state Department of Transportation) to make sure property owners are dealt with fairly and properly," he said. …

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