TIGER Grant Seeks MetroLink Station Funding, Reveals More About Cortex

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*update U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill announced today (9.9.2014) that the Cortex MetroLink station has been chosen as a TIGER grant recipient and will receive $10,300,000. The award also covers enhancements to the adjacent Central West End station, where a larger platform and other changes are anticipated.

Cortex MetroLink and Wexford

Some cities have touted their TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant applications. Although the public has no ability to push a grant across the finish line, and the program received requests totaling 15x the funding available ($600M) in its current round, many see the process as a way to show that a community is working hard to leverage all possible funding sources.

This hasn’t been the case in St. Louis. For example, MoDOT’s application on behalf of CityArchRiver for reversing I-44 ramps at the Arch grounds, and other roadway projects wasn’t promoted locally, or discussed publicly. Generally it seems that no one wants to promote an application that is unlikely to succeed. They may also not wish to highlight that TIGER grant applications contain a lot of information.

{preliminary design of the proposed Cortex MetroLink station}

In March we were the first to report about a planned 500,000sf expansion of science and technology space at Cortex. Those plans appear to have grown by 40% since then. In addition to the three office and research buildings previously conceived, a significant residential component is possible, while an 11 story, 2,450 space parking garage appears substantially smaller.

“Wexford is planning on investing approximately $140M in a 700,000sf research, laboratory and residential transit oriented development project adjacent to the proposed Metro site,” states a TIGER grant letter of support from Wexford Science & Techology. Wexford owns the Cortex I and @4240 buildings, and the U.S. Metals & Supply site where the new project would be built. Baltimore-based Wexford specializes in developing technology and science mixed-use office parks in partnership with universities and institutional partners.

{this site plan from March 2014 has already seen substantial changes}

The letter of support goes on to state that the project would produce more than 1,800 permanent full-time jobs, and that without a new MetroLink station, the project’s density would be lessened to accommodate more parking. A successful TIGER grant application would move the project ahead quickly. Even without the grant, it remains difficult to see the proposed MetroLink station not being built given the incredible amount of adjacent investment.

Of course it’s smart to pursue any and all funding options for the project. Just earlier this month it appeared that state funding may be available to build the station, but a line item for the station in a large statewide capital projects funding bill was stripped literally at the 11th hour.

The amazing thing about following the accelerating pace of development at Cortex is how fast the proverbial goal posts are being moved. Just last year the 200-acre, decade-old effort felt too expansive to fill over several generations. As project after project has been announced in recent months, the measure of “highest and best use” of developable land may be changing.

Of additional interest in the TIGER grant application is an alignment study from Great River Greenway’s proposed Midtown Loop. The off-street multi-use trail would connect Forest Park, the adjacent medical campus, Cortex, Saint Louis University, and the Grand Center arts and entertainment district, as well as two existing GRG trails. The study shows using the trestle adjacent to the coming Ikea and Midtown Station retail development.

Midtown Trestle{the Midtown Trestle could provide a crucial link for the Midtown Loop}

Great Rivers Greenway Midtown Loop{the Midtown Loop would connect several existing and future trails}

An included rendering (top) of the proposed Wexford project also gives a small glimpse of surrounding development. While planning continues to be refined, significant infill is shown south of the MetroLink alignment (currently a surface parking lot serving the new BJC @ The Commons building) and along Duncan. A 15-story tower is shown on Duncan at The Commons, a site previously targeted for residential or hotel development.

Cortex MetroLink Station TIGER Grant Narrative 2014 by nextSTL.com

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  • Scott Nauert

    A trolley system would be a lot better, especially considering the rails and related infrastructure are already in place. To avoid the high cost of electrification, a hybrid using diesel/battery could be used. I’m sick of seeing our areas valuable rail infrastructure being wasted – use it for what it was intended.

    • Presbyterian

      I’m a trolley fan too. In this instance, though, the metro tracks are already there and used as such. But there are plans for a streetcar line three blocks north of CORTEX, along Lindell.

      • Scott Nauert

        Yes, but there is an abandoned industrial spur that extends from the Metro R-O-W to the old Wagner Brake plant on SLU’s campus. Andy Sisk with CMT proposed such a plan to SLU’s Biondi shortly before his resignation.

        • tpekren

          Really don’t understand the benefit of building a 3/4 mile long trolley from the proposed new metrolink station to the old brake Wagner Brake plant were the infrastructure literally stops and where the developer currently has plans to build out a box store development just because tracks are there. Also, you assume the old industrial trestle can support the weight without a major overhaul. Designing for pedestrian, or even a service pickup truck is a lot different than a trolley car. Then you still have to address operating costs and hours of service that provides little benefit to the rest of the system as a whole. so I’m scratching my head of why CMT even entertains the thought when their is a lot that can be done and this offers an opportunity for the GRG to build out the midtown loop.
          .
          I think SLU would be much better off putting some weight and dollars behind a Grand Ave BRT that would serve its entire campus on both ends as well as be served by the rebuilt Grand Ave metrolink station

          • Scott Austin

            Tpekren – I just got off the phone with Mr. Sisk and he is going to chime in on here as soon as he can; he’s currently on board Amtrak headed for the east coast. To clarify a few things, Andy proposed this project on his own and this is not connected with CMT in any way, although Andrew is a member. Andy’s idea was for SLU to acquire the recently-abandoned freight trackage that parallels Metro from the CWE station on eastward to the proposed Boyle station and onto the elevated industrial spur at the old Wagner property. From there, a small build-out would take the streetcar track to Grand Center. As far as the trestle’s condition, it was in excellent shape, actually over-built, when my employer ran 300,000 lb. diesel locomotives and freight cars over it a decade ago. I sincerely doubt it would need little, if any overhauling for a trolley. Andy admitted his idea will likely never come to fruition, and tends to be in favor of BRT service instead.

          • dempster holland

            I think the idea of a streetcar on the trestle is at least as
            good as the Delmar/Hist museum now coming to fruiioin

    • jhoff1257

      If you’re talking about the vacated railroad trestle in the above photo that really makes no sense. The new CORTEX station would only be a few blocks away and the Grand station isn’t even all that far from it. A greenway where people can bike and walk between a new LRT station and the proposed retail development makes much more sense, from both a cost and a mobility perspective. Not to mention a new streetcar is proposed only 3-4 blocks north of the current Metro alignment that would provide much better service to Grand Center and Midtown then a 3/4 mile trolly between one station and a retail center. As much as I love our old railroad lines and our industrial past, I’d much rather see these areas reclaimed for people. Plus I’d say we did a pretty good job at reusing some of our older railroad infrastructure with the MetroLink. There is still a vast amount of in-use trackage in and around St. Louis. Let’s take the vacated ones and make some spaces for people.

      • matimal

        What’s the difference between a trolley and a streetcar. I’ve heard them used interchangeable.

  • STLEnginerd

    I hardly expect this to be an everyday occurrence but it is risk of things like this especially as traffic increases in cortex that make me wish they would consider a grade separated station for the new Metrolink at Boyle. I realize there would be significant expense in such a change but I feel it would be worth it. I also personally think it improves the passenger experience and is less disruptive to traffic. Important as cortex grows.

    http://www.kmov.com/news/local/Metrolink-train-and-pickup-truck-collide-at-Central-West-End-station-284225841.html