Freightway Director Reports Progress Rollin’ on the River

By on March 17, 2017

by Tom Finan, Executive Director, Construction Forum STL

The St. Louis region is taking giant steps to capitalize on its logistical advantages to developers and major users of logistical and distribution services,  those attending Wednesday’s (March 15) Construction Forum STL event were told by Marie Lamie, executive director of the St. Louis Regional Freightway. That’s a good thing, because in some instances we’re as much as 65 years behind other areas.

Lamie told the audience Wednesday about the progress that has been made, and about major projects that are in the planning/funding stages. Registration was 433 for Wednesday’s event.

When Lamie came on board as executive director of the Freightway in July 2015 she began checking out the efforts that the region’s peer cities — Kansas City, Nashville, Memphis, Indianapolis, and Columbus — had made in attracting logistics development. She found that while the St. Louis region had clear advantages over other areas in terms of ground, rail, air, and river transportation, the region had been out-marketed by other areas with far less in their portfolio. Site location planners told her that they flat hadn’t been aware, or been told of what is available here. Further, the large number of political entities in the region made it difficult to figure out where to get information.

To download a copy of Mary Lamie’s presentation, click here.

The St. Louis Regional Freightway is a regional business unit of Bi-State Development — one of five Bi-State Development Enterprises.  It was formed in September of 2014, following a study by the East West Gateway Council of Governments. The area impacted by the Freightway includes St. Louis/St. Louis County, Franklin, St. Charles, and Jefferson counties in Missouri and Madison, St. Clair, and Monroe Counties in Illinois.

Recently the Freightway and the Port of New Orleans (PORT NOLA) signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in advancing logistical issues. While the peer cities are competitors, Lamie said, cooperation is also key to making this region a player in the logistical universe.

Last fall the Freightway hosted a group from the PORT NOLA to come to St. Louis, view the region’s logistics capabilities, meet regional leaders, and attend a Cardinal Ballgame. Lamie said she was pretty proud of that accomplishment until New Orleans invited her to an annual collaborative port gathering in Memphis.

“There were 900 people at the dinner. They had been holding the event for 65 years,” she said.

 

The St. Louis Regional Freightway has created an interactive map of logistically-enabled real estate sites aimed at assisting site selectors. Click here to access the map.

As Freightway executive director, Mary Lamie recognized the importance of assessing and prioritizing logistical infrastructure projects. Lamie is by training a professional engineer with a Masters from MO S&T and over 25 years of experience in transportation, engineering and management, including 22 years with the Illinois Department of Transportation. She served as IDOT Deputy Director of Highways Region 5 Engineer, where she was responsible for 27 counties in southern Illinois.

She assembled a cross-disciplinary panel to triage the area’s needs. Criteria used in assessing projects included:

  • Economic ImpactHow closely does the project align to the Freightway’s goals? Improving the region’s overall competitiveness. Supporting economic and new business development. Create jobs throughout the region.
  • Multimodal Impact –What is the potential for the project to improve the flexibility, reliability, and connectivity of the region’s freight network
  • Efficiency Impact –To what extent does the project increase the efficient use of the St. Louis region’s freight assets? Increasing the speed of freight, lowering the cost to move freight

Click here to download the complete report on proposed projects. 

At the top of the list that came out of that triage effort was the replacement of the Merchants Rail Bridge, a $200 million project. The 128-year-old bridge was designed to carry two trains at a time but aging of the structure and changes in the configuration of freight trains have limited the load to one train at a time.

Twisting approaches to the bridge result in trains often having to slow or stop. Engineers have said that the bridge only has a couple more years of structural viability. Logistics users, barge companies, railroads, and trucking companies all identified the bridge as the linchpin in expanding utilization of the Freightway.

The Merchants Bridge is owned by the Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) — comprised of Union Pacific Railroad, Burlington Northern and Sante Fe Railway, CSX Transportation, Canadian National Railroad, and Norfolk Southern Corporation. Lamie said that the TRRA will provide most of the funding for the replacement mode. Click here to download a Freightways information sheet on the Merchants Bridge project.

Other priority projects identified by the Freightway include:

  • Interstate 270 Mississippi River Bridge Replacement
    • Replacement of two existing structures
    • Construction of new structure to accommodate forecasted vehicle/freight flow
    • Total estimated project cost = $160 -$175 million
  • Interstate 270 Improvements
    • Increase capacity by widening to six lanes from Lilac Ave. to IL-111
    • Corridor improvements between Lilac Ave. to Lindbergh Blvd.
  • North Riverfront Commerce Corridor Improvements
    • Improve mobility and circulation issues in 3,000 acre multimodal logistics and business district
    • Relocate IL Route 3 in St. Clair County, Illinois
      • New construction between East St. Louis and Sauget
  • Falling Springs Diversion Loop/IL Route 3 Railroad Bypass
    • Construction of bypass loop from IL Route 3 over A&S railroad in Sauget to eliminate substantial through-traffic delays

 

 

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