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MetroLink riders will see a new public safety center in East St. Louis next February

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St. Clair County Transit District
A rendering of the future $13.6 million public safety center at the Emerson Park Transit Center. The goal of the center is to improve communication and collaboration among public safety officials.

A $13.6 million MetroLink public safety center will be built at the Emerson Park stop in East St. Louis.

The overarching goal of the project, which is scheduled to be complete by next February, will be to improve public safety near and around MetroLink across the region.

“This is a beginning to reconnect and build new relationships with the community, its riders and law enforcement, while ensuring that all feel safe, and creating a service that riders and employees can depend on,” said former state Rep. LaToya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis, at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday afternoon.

Nearly $10 million for the project will come from the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure grant passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker last year. The remaining $3.6 million will be covered by the St. Clair County Transit Authority, said district Chairman Herb Simmons.

The 16,000-square-foot facility will house backup equipment for the transit’s control center, a new St. Clair County 911 dispatch unit and office space for the county sheriff’s department. The two-floor building will also have public bathrooms for riders.

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Derik Holtmann
Belleville News-Democrat
The two-story, 16,000-square-foot facility will house the backup Metro Transit Operations Control Center, the St. Clair County 911 dispatch center and office space for St. Clair County MetroLink sheriff's deputies.

“The facilities, its amenities and the operations will enable the St. Clair County District to better serve our riders not only in St. Clair County but across the entire MetroLink alignment,” Simmons said.

State Sen. Chris Belt and state Rep. Jay Hoffman, both Democrats of Swansea, praised the announcement.

“Your personal safety is optimal. It’s paramount,” Belt said. “It makes sense on so many levels, right?”

Belt said the new facility will help create more union jobs and increase ridership, which will lead to less traffic on the region’s roads — and "it makes sense on an environmental level.”

Hoffman also stressed the importance of safety to maintaining ridership.

“If we lose the public's ability to feel safe on these systems, we're going to continue to see the ridership decline,” Hoffman said.

Representatives from Bi-State Development, the agency that oversees MetroLink for both Missouri and Illinois, said this investment reflects the organization’s broader public safety goals.

Kevin Scott, Bi-State’s general manager of security, said the project will set the scene for further changes that are coming to MetroLink.

Bi-State announced last year it would create a “secure platform plan" that would add gates and require riders to purchase tickets before getting on the train.

The first four locations that will see the new changes will be Emerson Park, Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center, Washington Park and College near Southwestern Illinois’ campus. Those locations were picked because the engineering made sense, Scott said.

“This also gives us an opportunity to phase in or ease into this concept,” he said.

Bi-State wants to put the project out for construction bids on the secure platforms by August.

Will Bauer is the Metro East reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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