Illinois Transportation:  The Crossroads of our Nation

 

U.S. Senate Field Hearing

on Surface Transportation

Chaired by Senator James Inhofe

Chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works

United States Senate

April 7, 2003

Testimony submitted by the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois

 

 

Introduction:

 

The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois respectfully submits this written testimony to Senator James Inhofe for the April 7, 2003 U.S. Senate Field Hearing entitled “Illinois Transportation:  The Crossroads of our Nation.”  The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is a regional not-for-profit economic development corporation serving the southwestern Illinois counties of Madison and St. Clair.  The Council’s members include leaders from government, business, labor and education.  The organization is best described as a public/private sector partnership organized to encourage business investment and expansion within Madison and St. Clair counties.  The relationship between transportation improvements and private sector investment was described by Illinois’ favorite son, Abraham Lincoln, when he said “Commerce follows transportation.”  Transportation is the foundation issue supporting the economic vitality and security of the United States.  The ability to maintain and improve surface transportation, specifically roads and bridges, is essential if we are to remain economically vital and globally competitive.  Today there are huge challenges in maintaining and improving our transportation system.  TEA-21 reauthorization is an opportunity to aggressively address these challenges. 

 

Transportation for Illinois Coalition

 

The Transportation for Illinois Coalition brings business and labor together to speak with one voice regarding Illinois transportation funding needs.  The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois is a member of the coalition and serves on the steering committee.  The Coalition focuses on principles and program concepts that will enable transportation leaders to move forward with a common purpose to obtain maximum federal funding to meet Illinois infrastructure needs.

 

Reauthorization Legislation:

 

TEA-21 reauthorization legislation should set total highway authorizations based on total projected highway trust fund-highway account revenue.  It should utilize the existing “firewall” to ensure that all funds authorized for each year can be spent.  In addition, it should retain the Revenue Aligned Budget Authority mechanism with refinements to curtail large swings in the annual adjustment.  The reauthorization should address the growing need for reconstructing the interstate system.  This growing national problem requires focused attention and additional federal funding should be incorporated into the reauthorization legislation.  Finally, there are important individual projects which, by nature of their size, scope and impact, take on national significance.  These “mega” projects should be “over and above” regular funding for general highway improvement purposes.  Reauthorization legislation should exclude such special funds from overall highway funding adjustments such as the TEA-21 minimum guarantee. 

 

New Mississippi River Bridge:  Connecting Missouri and Illinois at Downtown St. Louis: 

 

The most significant surface transportation challenge in southwestern Illinois is the Mississippi River bridge system.  The solution to this challenge is the construction of a new Mississippi River bridge with the relocation of Interstate 70, the construction of an Interstate 64 connector and related improvements in St. Louis, Missouri (Attachment I).  Given the size, scope and national significance of this project, it qualifies as a “mega” project and deserves special funding.

 

Thirty-five years ago, four bridges with a total of 22 vehicle lanes crossed the Mississippi River in the core of the metropolitan area.  In 2003, only two bridges remain open with a total of 12 vehicle lanes.  The loss of vehicle lanes across the Mississippi River is now threatening the free flow of national commerce and emerging as a national security threat.  The bi-state Missouri-Illinois St. Louis metropolitan area is a crossroads for national commerce.  It is the second largest freight hub in the Midwestern United States (Attachment II).  Four interstate highways, I-70, I-55, I-40 and I-44 converge in the core metropolitan area facilitating the flow of commerce throughout the nation.  However, three of those interstates are routed over one Mississippi River bridge.  In fact, the bi-state St. Louis region is the only major metropolitan area in the country that routes three interstate highways over one bridge.  The vulnerability of the interstate system through St. Louis was brought to light in a recent Post-Dispatch article (Attachment III) citing Mississippi River bridges as potential terrorist targets.  The March 27, 2003 article stated that, “Homeland Security officials have long recognized the Poplar Street Bridge as a potential target.  It carries three interstates – 55, 64 and 70 – and accommodates about 35 percent of the car and truck traffic across the Mississippi River in the St. Louis region.”

 

The only core area interstate crossing of the Mississippi River, the eight-lane Poplar Street Bridge, is severely overburdened.  Its capacity is inadequate to meet the needs of the through and local motorists, including truckers, traveling on and between I-55, I-44, I-64 and I-70.  Its 30-year-old design is now substandard.  Illinois Department of Transportation traffic projections show conditions in the Poplar Street Bridge corridor will continue to worsen, indicating traffic failure on all key interstate highway segments by the year 2020. 

 

The new Mississippi River bridge project will yield some 6,000-person years of construction jobs and will create another 15,000-person years of indirect and induced employment.  Its income effect on the local economy will be in the range of $1.2 billion.  The project will reduce driver travel time and distance, yielding $52 million in annual user cost savings.  In addition, approximately $4.6 million per year will also be realized as a result of reduced traffic accidents.

 

Project Support:

 

The project enjoys strong support in both the Illinois and Missouri portions of the St. Louis metropolitan area.  Both the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Missouri Department of Transportation have identified the project as a high priority for federal funding.  The total cost for the project, including the new Mississippi River bridge, the relocation of I-70, the I-64 connector and related improvements in St. Louis, Missouri is projected to be $1.6 billion.  Of that total, $300 million has already been committed with key elements of the project moving forward.  The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois has been a strong advocate for the project since 1992 when initial studies began.  In 1996 those studies concluded that a new bridge north of downtown St. Louis and associated roadway improvements were needed.  Location and environmental studies were completed in 2000 with a positive record of decision issued in 2001.  The goal now is to secure discretionary federal funding, to complete this needed project, over and above regularly apportioned federal dollars to the states of Missouri and Illinois. 

 

On behalf of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, I would like to thank Senator Inhofe and members of the Senate field hearing on surface transportation for the opportunity to share our views and comments on transportation improvements important to southwestern Illinois.  The Leadership Council looks forward to working with members of this committee and the United States Congress in crafting surface transportation legislation that meets the needs of Illinois, the St. Louis bi-state metropolitan area and the nation.

 

 

    NEW MISSISSIPPI RIVER BRIDGE PROJECT                           (ATTACHMENT I)

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


NEW MISSISSIPPI RIVER BRIDGE PROJECT         (ATTACHMENT I CONTINUED)

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Text Box: (ATTACHMENT II)

(ATTACHMENT III)

 
Threat prompts police to watch 2 bridges

03/27/2003

By Bill Bryan of the Post-Dispatch

 

St. Louis police have assigned officers to watch two Mississippi River bridges 24 hours a day after a captured al-Qaida leader told interrogators about what Chief Joe Mokwa described Wednesday as a "generic threat."

"We have uniformed officers looking for anything unusual," Mokwa said. He declined to say which of the seven bridges are getting the attention or how the two were chosen.

Homeland security officials have long recognized the Poplar Street Bridge as a potential target. It carries three interstates - 55, 64 and 70 - and accommodates about 35 percent of the car and truck traffic across the Mississippi in the St. Louis region.

St. Louis also has two rail-only bridges, the Merchants and MacArthur, which get little public notice but play a vital role in national commerce.

Mokwa said the FBI alerted him about two weeks ago. The information came from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-ranking al-Qaida member who was captured March 1 in Pakistan.

Mohammed reportedly told officials that al-Qaida was interested in hitting symbolic landmarks and named the White House, the Israeli embassy in Washington, the Sears Tower in Chicago and bridges in Manhattan, St. Louis and San Francisco.

Thomas E. Bush III, special agent in charge of the FBI's office in St. Louis, confirmed the report Wednesday and emphasized, "There are no specific threats to any bridge in the St. Louis area."

He added, "There has been a lot of nonspecific information that has come out but never substantiated. In this case there's no timetable given, nothing specific.

"You have to be careful in situations like this not to overreact. You don't want to create panic. There have been a number of these kinds of reports, and you have to take them in context."

But even vague threats are handled seriously, Bush said. "You're damned if you do, and damned if you don't. It's better to err on the side of caution."

The FBI "took necessary steps" that included notifying local police, he said.

Mokwa said that after the report, police photographed and studied the bridges. He would not discuss how officers are monitoring them.

Illinois State Police Capt. Richard A. Woods, commander of District 11 in Collinsville, said he was aware of the terrorist alert, but he declined to say how his agency might be involved.

In June, security at the Edward Jones Dome downtown was tightened after reports that people with ties to unspecified terrorist groups had used an Internet site to gather information about it and the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

Bill Eubanks, then special agent in charge of the FBI here, called that information "very vague." Nothing came of it.

Besides the Poplar Street, Merchants and MacArthur, there are four other Mississippi River bridges in the city. Two, the New Chain of Rocks (I-270) and King bridges, carry cars and trucks. The Eads is used only by MetroLink trains, although it has a road deck under reconstruction. The McKinley is closed for repairs.

There are two more bridges in the region not in the city: the Clark Bridge, linking St. Charles County to Alton, and the Jefferson Barracks Bridge, linking south St. Louis County to Monroe County.

Text Box: (ATTACHMENT II)