The St. Louis Regional Freightway’s 2024 Priority Projects List includes more than 25 projects representing a total investment approaching $3.7 billion and underscoring the ongoing commitment to improving freight infrastructure in the bi-state region. Approximately $2.7 billion of the 2024 total covers infrastructure projects that have recently been completed, are already funded and under construction or expected to start in 2023 and 2024, or are at least partially programmed for construction. That’s up from $2 billion a year ago, a reflection of the progress being made securing funding and advancing major projects through the development pipeline to strengthen critical roads, bridges, rail infrastructure, and port and airport facilities across the bi-state St. Louis region. The List represents the infrastructure needs of the manufacturing and logistics industries in the Eastern Missouri and Southwestern Illinois and was released during a Freight Summit held May 24 as part of FreightWeekSTL 2023.
Kirk Brown, Region Five Engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), provided an overview of some of the most significant projects on the list that IDOT is advancing, ranging from the Chain of Rocks Bridge and nearby Illinois 111 Interchange to the Illinois Route 3 connector in Fairmont City/East St. Louis and Illinois Route 158 improvements by MidAmerica St. Louis Airport. He also highlighted the level of funding the state is committing to roadway and bridge improvements, both statewide and in District 8, which includes Madison and St. Clair Counties.
“In the state’s multi-year program, there is $24.6 billion that Illinois has slated for highway improvements and, out of that, District 8 gets roughly 10 % or $2.3 billion just within the next six years,” said Brown. “That should tell you just how serious the department and the state are about bringing transportation improvements to this vital part of the state.”
Michelle Forneris, Assistant District Engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) talked some the most significant Missouri projects moving forward, including the Interstate 270 North improvements that will wrap up later this year and the Interstate 70 bottleneck improvements from Wentzville Parkway to Route Z. She also shared the agency’s excitement over the very real potential for more funding for Interstate 70.
“We are very humbled right now that the Missouri General Assembly, for fiscal year 2024, has slated $2.8 billion dollars for I-70 improvements from Wentzville to Blue Springs - more than 200 miles. So there’s more to come on overall I-70 projects as we are hopeful the Governor will sign that legislation.”
Among the other highlights on the 2024 Priority Project’s List is the recently completed $222 million replacement of the Merchants Bridge, a vital rail link connecting Missouri and Illinois at St. Louis. It has been the region’s highest priority infrastructure project since 2016. Joe Torp, Industrial Development Manager for Norfolk Southern, said the new bridge is delivering tremendous benefits for the rail industry and for shippers, eliminating bottlenecks caused when two trains couldn’t pass on the old bridge at the same time due to load and speed restrictions.
“The Merchants Bridge is one of those few locations in the St. Louis area where rail can cross from one side of the Mississippi River to the other, so any delay in that vital link had a follow-on effect up and down the network,” Torp said. ‘We are very excited about the completion of the Merchants Bridge, especially from the operations side.”
Other completed projects include the Union Pacific Railroad Lenox Tower Replacement and Track Realignment, a $10.1 million modernization project that reduced freight train delays by 43 hours a week for combined freight, or more than 10 hours per day. Overall, the project enabled freight, including four Class I rail carriers, and passenger trains to travel through the region more safely and efficiently while allowing rail traffic to be better integrated into system-wide patterns.
More than $900 million in funded projects on I-270, almost $670 million in partially funded improvements to Interstate 70, and $233 million in improvements advancing on I-55 from Rte. Z to U.S. Rte. 67 (MO) represent other landmark investments in integral components of the region’s freight network. Meanwhile other projects are supporting critical first mile/last mile connections that serve our region’s thriving industrial parks and ports.