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Year in Review 2014: Southwestern Illinois

Work begins on Alton multi-modal transit center

    Ground was broken in the fall of 2014 on work related to the development of Alton’s multi-modal transit center on the former Robert P. Wadlow Golf Course on Homer Adams Parkway.
    The $17.3 million project is scheduled for completion by the end of 2016, as part of the development of what the city calls the Wadlow Town Centre.
    Development of the 55-acre site is being done as part of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s $1.6 billion high speed rail project, which is currently underway. Track and vehicle crossings are being upgraded to a 110 mph standard from Granite City to Joliet. That standard should be available on most of the track from Joliet to Carlinville by the end of 2015, according to IDOT. That will reduce travel time by a half hour. By 2017, the entire Joliet to Granite City corridor will be upgraded to the 110 mph standard and that will shave another half hour off the overall travel time.
    The St. Louis to Chicago high speed rail project is fully funded with a combination of federal and state money as well as private funds from the Union Pacific railroad. Amtrak shares the line with UP, often leading to unscheduled stops along the route.
    According to IDOT, that problem will be mitigated by the installation of double tracks running parallel to each other in some areas so that one train can be going north and one south at the same time. IDOT is also increasing the number and length of some sidings to allow trains to pass each other more quickly.  
    With 55 acres, the Alton site will not only provide plenty of room for a new Amtrak station and the necessary parking but also space for buses, cabs, etc., plus connections to bike and hiking trails. Madison County Transit has already signed on to provide bus service to the station.
    The city also has previously worked with the Heartland Conservancy, a local non-profit that works to protect the area’s natural resources, to restore the area along the creek, which winds its way through the property and create a conservation easement. That work included restoring the eroded banks, planting hundreds of trees and shrubs and thousands of pounds of native grasses. The conservation easement totals about six acres.  
    The multi-modal project will consume approximately 15 acres along the back side of the property, leaving about 35 acres along Homer Adams Parkway that will be available for future development. The city has created a new zoning classification and rezoned the property as a mixed-use transportation district with the idea of developing it comprehensively as a planned unit.