Alton eyes regional transit hub status with new high-speed rail center

By Bob Pieper For Chronicle Media
Architect’s rendering of the new Alton Regional Multimodal Transportation Center (RMTC). (Photo courtesy city of Alton)

Architect’s rendering of the new Alton Regional Multimodal Transportation Center (RMTC). (Photo courtesy city of Alton)

A new high-speed rail terminal will soon make Alton an important regional transportation hub, business and political leaders predicted last week during groundbreaking ceremonies for the project.

Construction of the Alton Regional Multimodal Transportation Center (RMTC), at the Robert Wadlow Town Centre redevelopment site, officially got underway Sept. 21, with around a 100 area business and political leaders on hand.

“This is an historical event for the city and the region,” Alton Mayor Brant Walker told the crowd. The station is a joint project of the City of Alton and the Madison County Transit District (MCT).

Designed primarily to facilitate Amtrak’s planned, new 100-mile-per-hour rail service between Chicago and St. Louis, the Alton RMTC, will also offer access to MCT buses, trail heads for bicyclists and pedestrians, and even automobile and bicycle rental, according to planners.

The 8,000-square-foot brick building, on the site of the city’ existing Amtrak station at Homer Adams Parkway and Golf Road, will feature a modern Prairie design glass walls over two stories high, on the front and rear, to provide light and visibility of trains and tracks.

High-speed Amtrak services along the 800-mile Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor is set to begin in 2017. Terms of federal grant funding for the Alton station requires construction to be completed by Dec. 31, 2016.

At present, only two St. Louis-area stops are planned for high-speed rail line: Downtown St. Louis and the Alton RMTC.

That will make the Alton station the terminal of choice for much of Southwestern Illinois as well as many St. Louis and St. Charles county residents in Missouri, according to Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan.

Particularly for those north of Interstate 270, the Alton station will be more convenient than Downtown St. Louis, Dunstan said, adding that free public parking will be readily available around  the Alton station while little free parking in available in Downtown St. Louis.

The Alton center will quickly become the preferred station for both passenger traffic and rail shipment of products to and from the area, Dunstan predicted.

“This will put Alton on the map,” Dunstan said.

That, in turn, will lead to economic development around the station, including the 55-acre Wadlow redevelopment area, he added.

Alton city officials have targeted the site of the former Robert Wadlow Golf Course for a mix of residential and business development.

The new Alton RMTC “will be 10 times larger than the existing station, possesses upgraded amenities, shall serve as an important entry point to our community and state, and will be a catalyst for the development of the remaining 33 acres here at the Robert Wadlow Town Centre,” Walker concurred.

The station and green space already account for 22 acres within the Wadlow development.

Dunstan suggested that additional St. Louis area stops along the high-speed rail line are unlikely; noting the purpose of the high-speed line is to markedly decrease travel time between Chicago and St. Louis and each stop effectively adds more time to a rail trip.

Construction of the Alton RMTC will be funded with a combination of federal, and local money – primarily a $13.85 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The TIGER grant program is a supplementary discretionary program authorized under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The Federal Railroad Association and State of Illinois are providing an additional $7.4 million. The city of Alton and MCT are putting up a total of $1.6 million, with the transit district contributing $800,000 and the city making an in-kind contribution of land for the project.

The project will entail the realignment of Golf Road  and demolition of a former clubhouse on the golf course.

The city has set aside green space –  45 acres north of Illinois Route 140 in the Gordon F. Moore Community Park, and eight acres in the Wadlow redevelopment area  – for the remediation of two river tributaries feeding the west fork of the Wood River, which will be disrupted by the project.

The Piasa Palisades Group of the Sierra Club worked with the city on the remediation effort.

L.W. Contractors Inc. of Collinsville has begun site preparation for the construction.

Juneau and Associates of Edwardsville will oversee engineering work. Most of the water and sewer lines at the site have already been installed.






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