August 21, 2009

Capital Projects Update 8/21/09

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Eads Bridge under construction

Eads Bridge under construction

As we contemplate Metro’s upcoming sixtieth anniversary, we’ll take some time on the blog to look back at Metro’s history and see how transit in St. Louis has changed over the last six decades. Today I want to discuss the capital improvements of Metro – that is, the infrastructure. One big part of Metro’s responsibility is to maintain and improve the infrastructure of the light rail and bus systems. The first phase of MetroLink was constructed in the early 1990s, but pieces of the infrastructure (like bridges) have been around for much longer. Similarly, bus stops and transfer center work within street grids and city facilities that were there long before the bus came.

These “capital projects” are a large task, but happen mostly behind the scenes and in small ways.Working in the engineering department puts me in daily contact with the people who work on the capital projects, so my plan is to keep you, blog readers, updated on Metro’s ongoing capital projects.

Let’s pause a moment here because I know what you’re thinking – If Metro had to cut service because of money problems, how can Metro afford to do these projects? Readers have heard the “capital” vs. “operations” discussion before here and here, but for a good explanation of this issue (one common to all U.S. transit agencies accepting federal dollars), take a look at this post from the Transit Riders Alliance. So capital funds are a separate issue from operating money. Also, the federal government’s economic stimulus package – the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – has allocated some funds to Metro for capital improvements, but for the most part those funds cannot be used for operations.

Back to Metro’s capital projects: right now, Metro is working on or starting an interesting range of projects, from the large & visible to invisible-to-customers but important. My plan is to do a series of posts discussing each project, and then provide regular updates on the blog so that you can follow the progress of each project. Projects currently underway include:

  • Rehabilitation work on the Eads Bridge;
  • Replacing the MetroLink bridge over Vandeventer Avenue;
  • ADA upgrades for bus stops;
  • The Scott Avenue transit plaza project, planned in conjunction with the City of St. Louis’s replacement of the Grand Avenue bridge;
  • Installation of a paint booth at the Illinois maintenance facility;
  • Construction of an “interlocking” near UMSL.

“Watch this space” for more detailed project information.

Capital Projects

3 thoughts on “Capital Projects Update 8/21/09”

  1. Jimmy Z says:

    Politicians like ribbon-cuttings. Unfortunately, there aren’t many to ribbons to cut when it comes to paying for daily operations . . .

  2. Jennifer says:

    Well, capital funding is important too. Just wait for my post on the Eads Bridge, I’m hoping to show some photos of the steel deterioration on pieces that will be replaced. No matter how great a system you build, it always ages and needs to be fixed or replaced, or can be improved in various ways to account for changes in the surrounding area or usages habits.

  3. Jimmy Z says:

    I’m not saying that capital funding isn’t important. I’m saying that it’s actually easier to get money from outside sources for capital projects than it is for more-mundane maintenance and operations issues. Metrolink and the Cross-County Extension are a classic case – plenty of (enough?) people were willing to fund its construction, but finding the funds to actually operate it has been an on-going challenge!

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