by Peter Downs
Roads were at the top of the list of infrastructure concerns among attendees at the recent St. Louis Infrastructure Symposium. Sewage was at the bottom.
The symposium on October 14 at St. Louis University was sponsored by St. Louis University and the American Society of Civil Engineers St. Louis Section. Area public works and utility providers presented their cases for why the public should spend money on their infrastructure needs. Attendees then voted for the one they would be most willing to fund.
Lance LeComb, manager of public information, Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, led off by talking about the regulatory issues for clean water and the cost and challenges of separating storm water from the sanitary sewage treatment system in St. Louis to reduce pollution of area rivers.
Joseph Kellett, deputy district engineer for planning, programs and project management in the St. Louis District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers then discussed the Corps of Engineers three top missions in St. Louis: navigation, flood management, and environmental stewardship. He emphasized flood control issues in St. Louis and on the east side, and pointed out that FEMA’s concerns about the integrity of the east side levees has “essentially stopped development” there.
While stressing flood control challenges, he also highlighted the opportunity for the St. Louis area to become a major port for the importation of Chinese goods with the opening of a larger Panama Canal and development of container-on-barge shipping from New Orleans.
Derek Linam, engineering manager, Missouri American Water Co., followed with the case for maintaining the aging pipes in the St. Louis County potable water system.
Ed Hassinger, district engineer, Missouri Department of Transportation, contrasted Missouri’s collapsing budget for road maintenance and construction with the cost of upgrading and maintaining the state’s roads and highways.
Phyllis Steckel, a consulting geologist, talked about the St. Louis Area Earthquake Hazards Mapping Project.
After the presentations, came the vote. Which would you be most willing to pay for?
Highways and bridges (Missouri Department of Transportation) came in first, with 37 percent of the vote, handily beating out levees and river navigation (Army Corps of Engineers), which took 30 percent of the vote.
Drinking water (Missouri American Water Co.) was a distant third, with 18 percent of the vote, followed by clean rivers and streams (MSD) with 14 percent.
Only two percent of voters would care to spend money to map earthquake hazards.