Along for the Ride: Local Transportation Planning Adapts to Conservative Times

By Thorsen, Leah | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Along for the Ride: Local Transportation Planning Adapts to Conservative Times


Thorsen, Leah, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Jim Wild is the new leader of a group that largely flies under the radar, but plays a powerful role in making funding decisions for major St. Louis area transportation projects.

He's the executive director of the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the region's planning arm that's responsible for the roughly $900 million a year in transportation and other regional projects that require federal funding in St. Louis and its surrounding seven counties.

East-West Gateway was formed 50 years ago in response to a federal mandate that metropolitan areas form planning organizations to better coordinate federal transportation and development funding. It also gives technical assistance and planning oversight to local governments and other public agencies for transportation and economic development projects.

Its 24-member board includes local county executives and mayors.

Wild, 48, is just the third man to lead the organization in more than three decades and takes the helm after serving as deputy executive director since May 2012. He has worked for 22 years at East-West Gateway, where he began as a transportation analyst.

He takes over at a time when many ideas including MetroLink expansion and streetcars are brewing.

But funding sources are scarce, a reality that shapes how available dollars must be spent, Wild said.

"Preservation is the No. 1 priority of the board," he said Wednesday, a few hours after the East-West Gateway board of directors voted unanimously to give him the job. "Let's look at maintaining what we have and building on that when we get funding available."

That philosophy was laid out in the agency's most recent long- range regional transportation program report called Connected2045, which outlines the $4 billion worth of projects that are in addition to the $27 billion required over the next 29 years for maintenance. …

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