Submitted By Mary Lamie
The new federal infrastructure bill recently signed into law paves the way for historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure priorities – including roads and bridges, rail, transit, ports, airports, as well as the electric grid, water systems and broadband. The St. Louis Regional Freightway is especially encouraged to see the bill includes more than $110 billion dedicated for roads, bridges and other major projects. The funding allocated for bridges alone represents the largest investment in bridges since the beginning of the interstate highway system. An additional $16.6 billion will support improvements in our nation’s ports and waterways, while $25 billion will be directed toward airports.
The funds being committed to these critical components of our nation’s freight network are impressive, but we’re also excited to see the process through which some of these monies will be allocated. That process includes dozens of competitive grant programs, many of them new, which is good for the St. Louis region given our proven success competing for such grants in the past. Our approach to developing and advocating for funding for our Priority Projects is a nationally recognized model being used by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It played a role in helping to secure a $21.5 million federal grant for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Merchants Bridge, the region’s highest priority infrastructure project, which is on target to be completed by early 2023.
We also are pleased to see that funds are being dedicated to support surface transportation projects and multi-modal, multi-jurisdictional projects of national or regional significance. While the Merchants Bridge fits the bill on both fronts, we are hopeful that the funds being made available through this infrastructure bill could be leveraged to build on other projects underway in our region.
Among those projects are the work to enhance key stretches of I-70, one of 17 corridors already identified by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a High-Volume Domestic Agriculture Highway corridor. Funding has already been secured for a portion of this project referred to as the Wentzville curve, and there is great potential to secure funding for additional improvements needed as a result of the new bill. The Missouri and Illinois Departments of Transportation are already collaborating on $600M in improvements to the I-270 corridor in the St. Louis region – one of the nation’s primary east-west manufacturing and logistics corridors — and additional work needed could also benefit from funding included in this new infrastructure bill. Another partially funded project that could benefit is IDOT’s relocated IL Route 3 project in East St. Louis and Sauget, Illinois, which will decrease congestion, improve safety, address clearance issues, and better accommodate truck and freight movements.
With our existing multimodal infrastructure, capacity and relative lack of congestion, the St. Louis region continues to help support the national and global supply chain, performing well during normal and extreme situations, whether caused by a pandemic, severe weather, global fluctuations, or other factors. This new source of dedicated funding will only strengthen our freight network and position us to play an even more pivotal role in the global supply chain.
The St. Louis Regional Freightway looks forward to working with our various partners and stakeholders in the bi-state region to secure funding through the new bill to reinforce our world-class freight network and further solidify our region as a global freight hub.
Mary Lamie is the Executive Vice President of Multi Modal Enterprises for Bi-State Development and head of the St. Louis Regional Freightway.