By. Chris Stritzel
I have been a critic about our MetroLink system ever since I was younger. It just doesn't seem like it fits the needs of everyone as it only serves a small portion of the area. The portion it serves is a small strip along the Central corridor with small branches leading into North and South St. Louis County. Two lines just isn't enough. What about everyone living in the City in portions not served by the train? Well that appears to eb why the Northside-Southside line is being considered as the next major expansion of the MetroLink system. For $667 million, you get a 8.2 Mile System with 16 stations running North and South and connecting the city's recently revitalized neighborhoods with ones that need some help.
The new Northside-Southside line, which I will call the "Orange Line" will run primarily on Natural Bridge, Florissant Avenue, Delmar, 9th and 10th, 14th, Chouteau and Jefferson. Along this route lies several areas of local interest to residents and tourists. You have Cherokee Street, Lafayette Square, Downtown and Old North St. Louis. At the Civic Center Station in downtown, you can hop on to either the Red or Blue lines to take you to other destinations like CWE, Grand Center, Forest Park, Clayton, the Airport and the Metro East. The Orange Line is really one that can finally link the area together, even though it is a small line. The small line has tons of potential. Along the Orange Line, neighborhoods like Hyde Park, Old North St. Louis and Gravois Park are all ready to explode and the addition of light rail will surely speed up the process to add density in these neighborhoods. It could also help increase the amount of historic rehabs coming out of these neighborhoods. Even famous local businesses (Crown Candy, Cherokee Businesses) will benefit from this line.
While the Orange Line is substantially shorter than the original plan (which would've started at Stratford and ended at Bella Villa), it is more financially viable and addresses the "community investment strategies, serve area neighborhoods and residents and provide pedestrian access to the NGA West Campus". The price tag of $667 Million is far more viable than the original $1.5 Billion plan. It is also a good starter route. From here, more branches can be added onto at later times depending on how well this route does. Whether or not this gets built is still up in the air as federal transit money will need to be allocated for this and more thorough planning needs to take place (environmental effects and development study).
As for the NGA Alternative route (which is nearly 8 miles and has 16 stations), it could be used as part of a deal to get federal funding by aligning the transit line next to a federal agency. In this process, it would bypass the neighborhoods of Old North and Hyde Park which are making a steady comeback. That is why I prefer the Florissant line (as seen in the map below denoted in red). But fi the NGA Alternative of the Orange Line is selected, so be it, but then Metro should look at the possibility and feasibility of adding a BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) route to connect Old North and Hyde Park with the greater light rail network.
This goes before the East-West Gateway Council of Governments Board on August 29th.
Partial funding for the Orange Line passed in the April 2017 Municipal Election by the name of Prop 1. Federal Funding will still be required to pay fort he project. At this rate, we could see the line open in 2027 at the earliest (which is only 9 years).