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Residents view MetroLink routes

Residents recently received a glimpse of which MetroLink routes could be brought to south county during a public meeting at Oakville Senior High School.

Metro South planners last week set up a circular multimedia presentation consisting of maps, videos and information boards in the school's gym. Community members were able to walk around and ask project managers and team members specific questions about the Metro South project.

The maps displaying the four potential MetroLink routes in south county were one of the meeting's largest attractions. A continuous group of community members huddled around the maps almost the whole evening.

The four preliminary routes run along:

Watson Road, Laclede Station Road, Tesson Ferry Road and down past Interstate 270.

The Burlington North Santa Fe Railway and would join Interstate 55 near the south county center.

MacKenzie Road and would follow Interstate 55.

River des Peres Boulevard and would join Interstate 55.

Don Wichern of Woodbridge Creek Drive said he attended the MetroLink meeting as an Oakville resident, but he also is an assistant district engineer for the Missouri Department of Transportation. He said he, along with other south county residents, have a great need for a more direct option to mid-county.

"There's no good highway between south county and Clayton," Wichern said. "I'm interested in something providing linkage to Clayton."

He said he went to the presentation believing that the alternative route that runs along the existing railroad would be the most ideal MetroLink line, but then he learned it was not abandoned and would pose serious right-of-way concerns.

Other residents who attended the meeting wanted to know why the preliminary routes did not extend more into the Oakville area.

Joe Leindecker, deputy Metro South project manager for Jacobs Civil Engineering Inc., said many people asked why the routes did not include Telegraph Road.

"We would lose ridership from the east whereas running along I-55 serves each side," Leindecker said. "Also, there are few major activity centers in the Telegraph Road area and the residential areas are less dense.

Justin Carney of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council talked with community members who were concerned about the high amount of low-income residents who live along Telegraph Road who would not be serviced by any of the MetroLink routes. The group is looking for balance.

Research has been done, he said, that indicates a number of people of low economic status around Telegraph Road, but there are other parts of the county that have higher numbers and also are closer to activity centers.

"We recognize that, but we've got to look the issue more broadly," Carney said. "We can't just look at transit-dependent areas."

The study, in fact, has been evaluating a multitude of factors besides studying transit-dependent areas, said Uri Arvin, Metro South consultant team project manager.

Arvin walked residents through a formal sit-down presentation that attempted to show how the MetroLink routes are being determined.

Team members narrowed and will continue to narrow down the alternative routes based on their proximity to activity centers and attractions, such as shopping centers and Grant's Farm. They also are looking at how grades, right-of-way constraints, environmental disruption, and the number of jobs and houses within a half mile of the alignment.

Consultants are studying the number of low-income families within a half mile of the routes, environmental and cultural effects of the route in certain neighborhoods and traffic factors.

He also pointed out that the team is considering line placement in areas where the route could help or continue economic growth and development.

Currently, the team members are following federal guidelines to be eligible for federal funds that would support half of the project. Study representatives said there is no way to know how long it will be before MetroLink could be a reality in south county.

Even if the funding was available right now, it would take seven to eight years to implement, Leindecker said. The study is not scheduled for completion until winter 2004.

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