This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 11, 2009 - The St. Louis area will get $9 million for three more road projects under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (economic stimulus package) than the Missouri Department of Transportation originally announced. But some area leaders are saying that's still not enough.
MoDOT Director Pete Rahn, in a special public briefing Tuesday evening, unveiled the agency's new list for the way it wants to use federal stimulus funds. The revised list - which gives the St. Louis area $173 million instead of $164 million - calls for the city of St. Louis to get $17 million more for a project that will connect Tucker Boulevard to the Mississippi River bridge that is slated for construction next year.
St. Louis County will also get $1 million for ADA sidewalk improvements along Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) from I-270 to Old St. Charles Rock Road and $1 million in ADA sidewalk improvements on Route AC from Route 67 (Lindbergh Boulevard) to I-270.
Meanwhile, two projects -- relocating Route 141 in St. Louis County and extending Route 364 (Page Avenue) in St. Charles County -- will get less than the amounts on the original list. Instead of $71 million for Route 141, St. Louis County will receive $65 million. Instead of $48 million for the Page project, St. Charles County will receive $43 million.
Rahn said the reduced amounts would not mean cuts to the projects. Instead, he said MoDOT is finding that work will cost 10 percent less than original estimates because of market conditions and other savings that "practical design" brings.
"To make sure that we actually spend all the money that's designated for us, we're overprograming it by 10 percent," he said.
He said MoDOT began assembling a list of projects that could meet federal requirements in a stimulus package soon after Barack Obama was elected president in November.
Of a total of $788 million MoDOT is getting in stimulus funds, $525 million will be administered by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, $93 million is suballocated to the state's three largest urban areas, $19 million for transportation enhancement projects and $151 million for other modes of transportation.
Rahn said he could not say whether the funds for the Route AC and Route 67 projects will come from the $19 million MoDOT is receiving for enhancements or the $525 million it is receiving for bridge and road improvements. Funds for the Tucker Boulevard project would be paid out of the $525 million, he said.
St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay has complained that the $5 million the agency had announced for the city for improvements to Memorial Drive -- the only project on MoDOT's original list -- was not enough, especially because the federal stipulations are that priority be given to economically distressed areas.
Rahn said the projects selected for the final list had to meet three federal priorities:
- that some of them be used in economic distressed areas,
- that they support economic development and job creation beyond construction and
- that they could be completed in three years.
Many areas in Missouri, other than inner cities, are also considered distressed. MoDOT's revised list calls for 61 percent of the stimulus funds to be spent in economically distressed areas, he said.
Some St. Louis County leaders are also unhappy that the county isn't getting more money. St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said the relocation of Highway 141 from Highway 40 to Route 340 (Olive Boulevard) will ultimately bring 9,000 jobs to St. Louis County. Tim Fischesser, executive director of the St. Louis Municipal League, said his organization believes the county isn't seeing enough stimulus money -- especially for cities inside I-270.
The East-West Gateway Council of Governments, at the urging of St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann, unanimously passed a resolution recently urging MoDOT and the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission to spend more of the stimulus money on the St. Louis region.
Rahn said some members of the public assume the stimulus package will bring a "tidal wave" of construction funds into the state but in reality it will cover only 1.6 percent of what MoDOT has identified as Missouri's needs.
To see the entire list of MoDOT projects that would use stimulus funds, go to http://modot.com/firstinnation/ARRAProjectlist.htm
Kathie Sutin is a freelance journalist.