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Stenger offers alternative to other Metrolink proposals

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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - There were fireworks Thursday in the battle over Metrolink expansion as St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger announced the studies of three proposed routes, but the route favored by regional leaders is not among them.

Stenger has clashed with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay in the past couple of weeks over the issue.

A spokeswoman for Slay said the Regional Chamber, Civic Progress, and the East-West Gateway Council of Government all endorsed the Northside-Southside route in a grant letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Stenger wrote a letter to the FTA opposing that plan, which will not help land a $530 million federal grant to keep the project moving forward.

If Stenger seemed to be digging in on his opposition Thursday, he said that was not the case.

“The mayor has his opinion and I have my opinion,” Stenger said. “I am not saying it’s never going to be Northside-Southside.”

He announced county funded studies of the proposed MetroNorth Corridor expansion, essentially stretching from I-170 to I-270 through Kinloch and Berkeley; the MetroSouth Corridor proposal from Shrewsbury through South St. Louis City and deep into South County to Butler Hill Road; and the Daniel Boone West Corridor proposal from Clayton to Westport.

The Northside-Southside proposal is much more ambitious. It covers 17 miles from the St. Louis Community College Florissant Valley campus through Ferguson, North St. Louis City, and crossing into South County near I-55 & Bayless.

More than 90 percent of the extension would be in the City of St. Louis, Stenger said. The studies he’s pushing won’t even look at it.

“The route that you’re talking about that are essentially two pieces of route that lie within the county, just really isn’t feasible for us to study or make a major expenditure on,” Stenger said.

Critics have said Stenger seems to embrace the region’s segregationist history, reaffirming the divide between north and south – black and white.

Stenger fired back.

“All of the routes we are studying connect all of St. Louis County with all of St. Louis City. To make a statement like that I think in irresponsible and I think it’s really unfair,” he said.

Northside-Southside would cost about $2.2 billion, he said.

You could get two of the other proposals for that much and still connect north and south with more service added to St. Louis County, he said.

“Well we were getting steamrolled, or attempted steamrolled, until we said we’re not going to do it,” Stenger said.

The St. Louis County still has to approve Stenger's plans.

Any completed Metrolink extension was still a decade away, he said.

Stenger said all proposals needed to be debated by the East-West Gateway Council for a final recommendation.

City leaders said that had already happened eight or nine years ago. They'll try to work around Stenger now.