May 9, 2017 | Liz Austin

Recent St. Louis elections gave the green light to north-south MetroLink expansion, while the proposed Major League Soccer Stadium’s future remains uncertain.

St. Louis’ April 4 elections saw the city’s highest voter turnout in years, with more than twice as many people taking to the polls as did in the last mayoral election four years ago. Together, St. Louisans made some serious decisions about the future of development in St. Louis.

Most notably, voters approved Proposition 1, which called for an increase to the city’s sales tax in order to generate revenue for the construction of a new North-South MetroLink service line. More than 60 percent of voters approved the half cent tax increase, which is expected to raise $12 million each year to fund the planning and engineering of the 8 mile rail expansion.

Completion of the additional line is not expected until 2026 at the earliest, but the project represents MetroLink’s first expansion in over a decade. The new line will run from Fairgrounds Park on the north side to Cherokee Street in the south.

A New Era for St. Louis Public Transit

Conceived of just a few years after MetroLink’s initial construction in 1993, the expansion has been in the works for over 20 years. It failed to gain real traction, however, until 2000 when a study was conducted by the city to assess the potential for a north-south running route through the city and county. With four proposals on the table, city residents ultimately voted upon a line running mostly up and down the city’s east side, primarily along Broadway.

With the construction of this north-south route, many see a new era of MetroLink service. This initial addition is widely being viewed as phase one in an eventual 31.5 mile north-south expansion of MetroLink service. Despite initial apprehension at the expanded movement of people and business from the city into the county, the potential $2.2 billion project is gaining support throughout the bi-state region from residents and developers alike.

Soccer Stadium Thwarted

While Proposition 1 passed easily, another issue on the ballot — the designation of funds for St. Louis’ own Major League Soccer stadium — failed when 53 percent of voters decided not to approve the additional tax levy.

Investors had hoped to raise funds for the construction of a 22,000 seat soccer stadium in order to be included in the forthcoming expansion of the MLS. The league is currently planning to expand from 24 teams to 26, and while the defeat of the tax levy doesn’t officially mean that a St. Louis MLS team is off the table, MLS officials stated that the efficacy of St. Louis’ bid would depend largely on a publicly funded stadium.

But regardless of the yet non-existent stadium’s fate, developers remain excited about the new MetroLink expansion. The new line is expected to reduce traffic congestion in the heart of the city, allow for a greater exchange of goods and services between the north and the south sides of the city, and appeal to potential new residents. For developers interested in taking full advantage of the opportunities for transit-oriented development, the expansion marks an exciting new chapter for St. Louis.

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