Cortex MetroLink Station Misses Out on $11,000,000 State Appropriation

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*update 05/19/14

It turns out that there has not been an allocation of funds for the planned Cortex MetroLink Station. HB 2021 passed by the Missouri Legislature included $11M in funding for the station. SB 723 was the bill that included funding for the HB 2021 project list. SB 723 was passed by the Missouri House and Senate as well, but we’re told reverted to a prior list of projects which did not include funding for a new MetroLink station at Cortex
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Cortex MetroLink planning

Lost in the craziness of the last week of the Missouri General Assembly was a bill that appears to provide St. Louis with a major transit investment.  HB2021 allocated $11,000,000 “For planning, design, and construction of a passenger rail station in proximity to a business incubator in St. Louis.”

A new MetroLink station at the heart of the Cortex district has been on the drawing boards for years, recognized by many as a necessary component to future development. While the bill language isn’t specific, it now appears that full funding may be in place to make it a reality.

At the end of March, light rail transit advocacy group Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) convened a public forum, presenting plans for a station. In June of last year, the Urban Land Institute St. Louis concluded that the best place for a new MetroLink station would be Cortex. The future MetroLink station has been used a selling point for the district since shortly after it was formed nearly a decade ago.

Cortex MetroLink planning

Since following HB2021 through the legislative process, nextSTL has reached out to the Metro transit agency, CMT, and representatives of Washington University. None professed to know much about the $11,000,000 allocation. One noted, “I’ve heard it’s in there, but haven’t heard the amount.”

The bill passed the Senate Y28/N4 and the House Y130/N15 on May 8. This all seems rather strange. The three groups responsible not only for transit planning (including WUSTL in the city’s central corridor), but also recent studies regarding a new MetroLink station at Cortex, the city’s 200-acre innovation district, claim to know nothing.

The State of Missouri simply doesn’t throw money at transit – the last general funding allocation was $100,000. The current MetroLink system features 37 stations. The last addition came with the opening of the Blue Line in 2006. Over the past couple years, several dozen meetings, studies, and open houses have addressed the possibility of a Cortex MetroLink station.

The vast majority of the Appropriation Bill concerned academic buildings and funds from the Board of Public Buildings Bond Proceeds Fund. The presumed Cortex MetroLink Station was designated money from this fund. The bill’s primary sponsor was Representative Rick Stream, a Republican representing the state’s 90th District, an area centered on the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood, MO.

From the recent CMT study, the capital cost for the project is estimated to total $9.4 Million, including $6.2 million for the station and track alignment, $600,000 for bicycle access and station, and $2.6 million in other station amenities. New operating costs are estimated to be $835,000 annually. An appropriation for $11,000,000 doesn’t often just find itself in a bill.

HB2021 has been described as a six year effort, and Representative Chris Kelly (D – Columbia) stated HB2021 was the “single largest single economic development bill passed by the state in 33 years. The bill appropriates a total of $221,000,000 largely to various university building projects across the state.

CORTEX Commons{a past rendering of The Commons – a MetroLink station is not shown}

While the station may seem a natural addition along a developing corridor with nearly two miles between existing stations, projected ridership appears very conservative. Estimates by CMT show 1,100 to 1,600 daily boarding by 2035. Clearly many assumptions comprise such an estimate, yet the 20-year potential for an added station should be much higher. The Central West End station to the west currently sees nearly 6,000 boardings a day.

It is estimated that Cortex and adjacent areas will add 1,000 residents in just the next year. Existing planned development would had more than 3,000 jobs within one-half mile of the proposed station, and it’s estimated that 12,000 new jobs could be added by 2035.

From HB2021:

Section 21.120. To the Department of Transportation For planning, design, and construction of a passenger rail station in proximity to a business incubator in St. Louis From Board of Public Buildings Bond Proceeds Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .$11,000,000

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  • John R

    $8 million was also allocated for incubator design and construction at Cortex.

  • T-Leb

    Same funding issue from general revenue plagues State Parks in Missouri. Almost none from general for years, then recently 20 million dollars. If interested: http://parks.missouri.org/IssuesAction/StateParkFunding.aspx

    • Mike F

      Hmm, maybe that’s why the Alta shelter at Babler State Park (a historic CCC project) was finally restored of the fire damage after over five years of…nothing.
      On second thought, perusing the project list PDF it is quite apparent that the sewage retention and treatment systems in many state parks are on the verge of failure.

  • john

    Why would ridership be so low? That’s going to be a busy area. And by 2035? Forget about it! Midtown will be huge then!

    • John R

      What is the average daily boardings number at the CWE/BJC station?

      • Alex Ihnen

        ~6,000 boardings a day – added to story

        • John R

          Yeah, that does seem really conservative then. If the station is open by the 2015-2016 school year I’ll look forward to an occasional “Metrolink to School” with my Stixster.

    • Steve Kluth

      Regardless whether Midtown is huge by then. It’ll be the closest Metro Link station to much of SLU today. It will also be easier to access, especially for the students living along Lindell not to mention the new housing being built at the SW corner of SLU. Add in the easy access to the Grove, and this station is a no-brainier.

  • rgbose

    I’m mystified as well. There should be celebratory press releases among WUSTL, CORTEX, CMT, Metro etc. This earmark didn’t come out of nowhere.

    For as much complaining we do about no transit funding from the state and then this happens and no one knows how? What’s the story here?

    • Brian

      I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. The General Assembly rarely does anything that will benefit St. Louis City. What’s the price for this gift? Support for the 1% transportation sales tax?

      • rgbose

        It’s 0.75% now. That deepens the mystery for me. I would have thought that funding for CORTEX Metrolink would have been on the sales tax project list as catnip for voters in the city. Good thing this will happen even if the sales tax fails.

  • Alex Ihnen

    Added this update above:

    *update 05/19/14

    It turns out that there has not been an allocation of funds for the planned Cortex MetroLink Station. HB 2021 passed by the Missouri Legislature included $11M in funding for the station. SB 723 was the bill that included funding for the HB 2021 project list. SB 723 was passed by the Missouri House and Senate as well, but we’re told reverted to a prior list of projects which did not include funding for a new MetroLink station at Cortex

    • Brian

      Well, that’s more like it. Those peckerwoods that populate the General Assembly would never knowingly do anything that might be good for St. Louis or mass transit. I am glad to see that they have not changed their spots.

  • pissed

    Wow, we live in a fucking horrible state. I wish St. Louis were part of almost any other state.

    • T-Leb

      A lot of rural Missourians say the same thing, just that they wish StL wasn’t part of the state. Be careful with your wishes.

      • STLEnginerd

        Honestly, how many people have you heard this from directly? I come from out state in one of this states most conservative areas and I’ve NEVER heard anything that approaches that sentiment.

        • Larry Guinn

          I grew up in the rural northeast area of Missouri, and I can attest this is the rural attitude.
          They don’t like Saint Louis.

    • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

      St. Louis’ defeatist assumptions about Missouri statewide politics need to go away. The city used to get things done in Jefferson City. Now all we seem to do is complain, and fail to work collaboratively with Kansas City on an urban policy agenda.

      • Brian

        I agree with this. First, we need to work on building regional cooperation, then reach out to the Kansas City delegation. Regional cooperation is complicated by the fact that St. Louis and North County are strongly Democratic, while South County, West County, St. Charles County and Jefferson County are strongly Republican. This can be difficult to achieve with West County and St. Charles County experiencing significant growth, while the rest of the region stagnates or regresses; why should they care about the central city’s problems? Throw in differences of racial composition and on social issues, and there is even less reason for the prospering parts of the region to feel that they have any stake in the enfeebled core. This dynamic has been in play for decades, and will be difficult to reverse. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

  • tpekren

    Actually, I’m little confused with the mess. I did a google search on SB 723 and got language, section 8, that appears to be added to a continuing state bonding bill/legislation The language is very specific in naming a county seat without actually naming the town itself. To me, this appears to be the legislation which make it possible for the state to sell bonds for the replacement/new mental hospital. Did I read it right?
    .
    Which gets me thinking, was HB 2021 a means to pull a fast one before the close of the session? or a nod to comments by pissed. Did the lousy state legislation body that runs the state of Missouri decided that it once again won’t, will not, not even try to invest in the state where cheap cig & gas taxes and no online sales taxes and a convoluted tax credit system and tax breaks for pass through for well to do income earners passes as economic development?

  • http://www.preservationresearch.com Michael R. Allen

    Questions: How did St. Louis’ state representatives and senators vote on final passage of SB 723? (Looks like all voted “yea.”) Did any offer amendments? (Doesn’t appear so.)

  • John R

    A TIGER grant has been submitted for this…. $12 million for the Cortex station, longer CWE station platform and Phase One bike lanes. Looks like a great project that will also result in a large TOD commitment from Wexford; without the station they’ll need to allocate more square footage to parking.