MetroLink Extension To MidAmerica Airport Expected To Be Finished By 2024
Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.
A MetroLink expansion that will connect the current rail system to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport is expected to be finished by 2024.
The project is part of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s $45 billion Rebuild Illinois Capital Program, which awarded a $96 million grant toward the extension of MetroLink’s mainline about 5.5 miles to a new passenger station at the airport.
St. Clair County Transit District Managing Director Ken Sharkey said connecting MidAmerica Airport to St. Louis Lambert International Airport and all points in between has been a goal of county leadership for decades.
“The project was designed originally back in the early 2000s, but there was no funding to go along with it,” he said. “It’s connecting airport to airport and a lot of the growth in St. Clair County over the years has happened in the corridor where this is being built.”
The extension is currently in the middle of its design phase, Sharkey said. It will include approximately three miles of double-track section and 2.5 miles of single-track trails. Along with the extension will be a bike trail from the Shiloh-Scott Station to MidAmerica that will follow the line.
Design phase ongoing
The design phase is expected to finalize in August of 2022. Construction will begin at around the same time and will last until November 2024. Sharkey said passengers most likely will be riding the new rail by December 2024.
Sharkey said the total cost of the project can’t be determined while it remains in its design phase and because of the current market for construction materials being so “volatile.”
However, Sharkey said without the $96 million Rebuild Illinois grant, the project wouldn’t be possible.
He added that the county has a goal to hire local when contracts for the project are posted for bid. Sharkey said it’s also a goal to award 25% of the project to disadvantaged businesses in the area.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) are socially and economically disadvantaged businesses owned by minorities and women.
“We want to make sure this money gets in the hands of people who need it,” Sharkey said. “With us being in charge of this we’re able to work with a lot of local partners. We can recirculate those dollars that are from Illinois and reinvest in local businesses that are here in our community.”
The Gonzales Company, a disadvantaged business enterprise with an office in Belleville, was selected for project management oversight during the design and bidding phases of the extension project and for management of the construction phase as well.
An important moment for MidAmerica
For MidAmerica Aiport Director Bryan Johnson, the extension out to the county-owned airport is another historical moment for the 24-year old airport. He said he expects the new rail to give customers another reason to use MidAmerica.
“It’s so valuable for all of us,” Johnson said. “It resonates well from a community standpoint and certainly for the traveler — it gives them another option for transport to MidAmerica.”
He said when the extension is completed it will serve as one of the “final connections” in St. Clair County, bonding the airport with the rest of the Metro system in both Illinois and Missouri.
After a year of decreased flights from the airport due to the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson said the progress of the MetroLink extension is welcomed news for the airport and travelers.
“It will be another defining moment in this airport’s history,” he said.
Other projects at MidAmerica
- Terminal expansion: MidAmerica is expected to complete a more than 41,000 square feet expansion of its terminal in December 2022, a year early thanks to a recent $9.7 million federal grant awarded to the airport to help fund the $30 million project. The new space is planned to include a new security screening area, two additional boarding bridges, an area for service animals, family restrooms, a nursing room, a larger lounge and additional concession areas. The plan also includes renovations that will help the airport better accommodate people with disabilities.
- MidAmerica and Boeing are in the “early stages” of a new project that could expand the manufacturer’s defense-related manufacturing on the south end of the airport. Airport Director Bryan Johnson said the expansion could have a “substantial” financial impact for the region and St. Clair County.
- MidAmerica is competing for a grant with hopes of bringing seven new destinations to the airport. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Small Community Air Service Development Program helps smaller market airports add destinations to its offerings. In MidAmerica’s case, seven roundtrip destinations would be added via Allegiant Air, the airport’s sole flight provider, including Denver, Newark, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and Orange County, California. The airport currently offers flights to 12 destinations through Allegiant Air.
Kavahn Mansouri is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.