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Some Grantwood Village residents would like to derail MetroLink route along Laclede Station


Grantwood Village residents concerned that MetroLink might come to their neighborhood recently tried to find out everything they could about the light-rail system during two Metro South public meetings.

Team members from Metro South, which is trying to determine a potential MetroLink route that would connect south county with the rest of the metropolitan St. Louis area, last week presented four potential routes to more than 500 area residents.

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 Westfield Shoppingtown South County.

• MacKenzie Road and would follow Interstate 55.

• River des Peres Boulevard and would join Interstate 55.

These route options first were presented to the public at meetings in September, but last week's presentations at the Shrewsbury City Center and Sperreng Middle School included data collected over the past three months concerning the feasibility of the four routes.

Team members solicited residents' comments last week to narrow down the four preliminary routes to two or three options, according to Donna Day, Metro South study manager. During the next six months, Day said, the team will try to eliminate one or two routes based on its research and public comments. However, each route poses significant challenges, "which aren't going away," she said.

After conducting more analysis, sharing the right of way with a railroad, and running through park land on the River des Peres Boulevard route are posing some immediate concerns.

But many of the people who attended last week's meetings wanted to know how the route that would run on Laclede Station Road would affect people who live in Grantwood Village.

Linda Blackburn of Grantwood Village began knocking on doors and distributing fliers once she learned a MetroLink route could run through her neighborhood.

Blackburn told the Call that she attended both public meetings last week so she could "stop MetroLink."

Bringing a route to Grantwood Village would hurt police and fire department access to her community, Blackburn contended, noting she does not want the noise that would accompany a light-rail system near her home.

The 12-foot chain link fences that also run along the routes and the two-year construction project would undo the area's beauty, she added.

And despite studies that show property values increase if they are near light-rail routes, she said that only is helpful if she sells her home. If she chooses to stay in the home she has lived in for 53 years, she said she is stuck living by an invasive train route.

"No one wants it," Blackburn told the Call.

Larry Austin of Grantwood Village, a retired conductor for the Burlington North Santa Fe Railway, doesn't want the route either.

"I think if you run a light-rail system down the street, you run into safety issues with pedestrians and bicyclists," he told the Call.

He also wondered how MetroLink would impact the safety of Grantwood Village.

Noting that light-rail systems are expensive, Austin said he would rather see the county spend the money more wisely on commuter trains that would not run in the middle of the streets and would be a lot safer for people who live near the routes.

During his formal presentation Dec. 10 at Sperreng Middle School, Uri Arvin, Metro South consultant team project manager, polled those present and discovered 20 percent of them lived in Grantwood Village. Blackburn told the Call that a greater percentage of Grantwood Village residents attended the Dec. 9 meeting at the Shrewsbury City Center.

Despite the number of residents who wished to speak during the sit-down period, Arvin told audience members they could ask questions and speak with representatives before or after the formal presentation or they could submit comment sheets, but they could not speak out during his formal presentation — that was not the intent of the meeting.

"We're aware of your concerns," Arvin said directly addressing Grantwood Village residents. "We are well aware and very sensitive to your concerns."

During his multimedia presentation, he explained the four routes in more detail and showed how each route would or would not preserve neighborhoods, foster economic developments and improve access to opportunity — three goals Metro South officials have set for the project.

Through his discussion, Grantwood Village residents discovered that the line that would run on Laclede Station Road would:

• Displace a lot of street parking spaces.

• Create a number of right-turn-only intersections created from streets and driveways.

• Create a number of new left-hard turn signalized intersections

• Delay vehicles at gated crossing.

• Serve a a low ridership.

However, Arvin pointed out that the route also would:

• Cost the least.

• Foster economic redevelopment.

• Increase business property values.

• Displace fewer jobs.

• Close a minimal number of streets.

Arvin described, in detail the pros and cons of all four routes. That information is available online at www.metrosouthstudy.org.

Team members will begin to evaluate the comment sheets from last week's meetings to determine which routes to eliminate.

However, Arvin explained that the team also is considering modifying the current alternatives to better suit the needs of south county.

The group is considering halting the MetroLink route at either Watson Road or Gravois Road and serving the rest of south county with an enhanced bus system to avoid all of the area's street and topographical challenges, he said.

Instead of stopping at Watson or Gravois, halting the route at Reavis Barracks Road is another possibility, he said.

Whatever the study discovers, he said Metro South will continue to provide the public with its findings during future public meetings.

By fall 2004, the group is scheduled to have finalized a locally preferred route.

Once a single route is selected, the group has to apply for federal funding. If federal funding is secured, it could take 10 years for MetroLink to reach south county. Construction for the project would take two years.

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