Category: News

Freightway moving forward

Critical pieces of strategy are falling into place for the new St. Louis Regional Freightway as officials move forward with plans to market the region as a multimodal cargo hub.
p01 freightway lamieLamie Executive Director Mary Lamie said the month of March is being devoted to putting together a marketing plan and a freight-development plan. Both were among recommendations in a freight study done in 2013 by East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the area’s metropolitan planning organization. That same study led to the formation last year of the freight district, which falls under the umbrella of Bi-State Development.
All this is being done in light of an anticipated 60 percent growth rate in the American freight industry.
“We know there are specific areas in the Midwest and throughout the nation that are going to substantially benefit from it,” Lamie said.
The study provided three key recommendations, the first of which is to improve marketing of the region as a freight hub. Until now, peer cities like Memphis, Nashville and Kansas City have gotten more attention.
“The last 15 years they’ve been very aggressively marketing campaigns as it relates to the freight industry. We’ve been overshadowed,” she said.
The second recommendation was to have the area’s many public and private interests do a better job of working together at a regional level, instead of competing with one another.
“When it comes to setting our transportation priorities from a network perspective focusing on all of our modes of transportation, we’re not doing a great job of that,” she said.
The third recommendation was to create the freight district itself. Lamie was hired to head up that effort last May. She had 22 years with the Illinois Department of Transportation, including seven as deputy director for Region 5 where she was responsible for regional planning.
The district works on behalf of Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties in Illinois, and St. Louis city and St. Louis, Franklin, Jefferson and St. Charles counties in Missouri.
The report also stressed the need to build a freight development plan that will recommend specific projects to drive the multimodal movement, calling on various constituencies for input. For example, the replacement of the aging Interstate 270 Bridge over the Mississippi River, has long been a regional priority.
“That is a national project,” Lamie said. “As a region we need to work together at the local state and national level to compete for money for that.”
Using the same example, the freight district would also study things like access and interchanges.
“We’re talking about when the trucks get off the interstate, when they’re getting through that interchange and to the facility, what does that last mile look like? Are there specific improvements we need to make sure our transportation costs remain competitive?”
The area needs to do better enlisting the input of the private sector, she said.
“We’re going to use the freight development plan as a planning tool. When we think about projects like Interstate 255, that didn’t happen overnight,” she said. “Those types of projects take planning and advocating for.”
Trucking, of course, is only one of several modes of transportation. Some 42 percent of freight movement through this region is by truck; 23 percent is by rail; 16 percent is by pipeline; 10 percent is by water; 1 percent is by air. Other freight is moved by multiple modes of travel.
Significant growth is expected from what’s known as container-on-barge transport.
“Within the next 10 years, there is going be a region along the Mississippi River that is going to benefit from a container-on-barge program,” Lamie said. “That means products will be shipped on barges and moved to rail. You’re going to find a shipper who’s going to purchase, say, a thousand containers, and he’s going to basically need 600 or 700 acres of land to do that type of facility. We want to see what it would take for us to be competitive for that type of option.”
In December, Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act — or FAST Act, the long-awaited national transportation bill. There is a significant amount of money earmarked for the freight industry.
Some $4.6 billion has been set aside for nationally significant highway and freight projects. Some $500 million of that can be used for freight intermodal and freight rail projects, she told the Illinois Business Journal.
Only governmental entities can submit application for funds — IDOT for instance, or a municipality, or a port authority or, locally, Bi State Development.
“With the dollars they’ve set aside for freight rail, working with any of the Class I railroads or the Terminal Railroad Association, that’s something we could help sponsor,” Lamie said.
To draw up a plan, she will lean on a broad cross-section of industry leaders, with emphasis on the private sector, for instance shippers like Archer Daniels Midland, Kinder Morgan and 3PL, or barge companies, fleeting companies, trucking companies and the like.
Despite the area’s diversity, big shippers have not yet caught on, Lamie said. When East-West Gateway did its freight study, it interviewed some site selectors and big shippers like Kohl’s and Amazon. Some of those participants seemed unfamiliar with what the St. Louis region has to offer.
“In response to that we put together a list with our key strengths,” she said. “Until two years ago we never had such a list. We were all being very parochial. The point is, when you put all this together it’s very compelling. In some areas we actually outcompete some of our peer cities.”
One of those strong points is the availability of workforce. Another is the existing presence of national and global companies like those based at Gateway Commerce Center in Edwardsville and Pontoon Beach.
The multimodal nature of the market is tailor-made for big shippers, Lamie said. And the region’s location in the center of the country makes it a one-day drive to many metropolitan areas.
“We have two international cargo airports (MidAmerica and Lambert), with available capacity. And six Class I railroads.” From here, a freight rail carrier can go anywhere in the United States without having to be switched.
“Then, we have the nation’s third-largest inland port (America’s Central Port). We have a significant price differential,” she said. “If you put your product on a barge in the St. Louis region, we are ice-free to the Gulf of Mexico. We are south of all the locks and dams, which are like traffic signals for the barge industry moving up and down the river.”
This region’s stretch of the Mississippi River is deeper than anywhere to the north. That could be attractive to the barge industry, which has designed many of its barges to be deeper, to be more cost effective.
The region also offers six natural gas and nine refined product pipelines.
Lamie hopes to have the freight development and marketing plans done this summer. The first will include a list of possible multimodal transportation projects.
Also to be wrapped up this summer is a planned website, with an interactive GIS map, which will provide all kinds of information on the transportation system, available real estate, and competitive advantages.

SIUE adds environmental sciences program

The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is introducing a bachelor’s program in environmental sciences to begin fall 2016.

“There is strong demand for environmental scientists as public interest in the hazards facing the environment has grown dramatically,” said Zhi-Qing Lin, PhD and director of the environmental sciences program. “The increasing pressure placed on the environment and natural resources due to population growth is also expected to spur the need for environmental scientists and specialists.”

Students of the new interdisciplinary program may choose a concentration in the areas of environmental health, environmental toxicology and environmental management. Students’ perspectives on environmental issues will be cultivated. The program will provide students with refined knowledge of environmental issues at the local, regional and global levels.

The curriculum will increase students’ technical competence in addressing these environmental issues, their origins, ramifications and resolutions. The program will promote experiential learning, professional education and prepare students for career opportunities in a wide variety of workplaces.

“Students in environmental sciences have various opportunities to conduct research with faculty on diverse, multidisciplinary and cutting-edge research topics in the fields of environmental biology, chemistry, toxicology, technology and environmental policy,” said Bill Retzlaff, PhD and CAS associate dean. “Students are also encouraged to gain professional experience through community service, internships and other hands-on learning opportunities during their undergraduate careers.”

SIUE’s environmental sciences program is one of few in southern Illinois providing students with interdisciplinary and hands-on learning opportunities in the discipline. “Giving undergraduate students the opportunity to work closely with faculty, who are at the top of their field in environmental sciences, sets our program apart and provides the kind of quality academic preparation that today’s students demand,” said Greg Budzban, PhD and dean of CAS.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of environmental scientists and specialists is projected to grow 11 percent during the decade ending in 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations in the U.S. The median annual wage for environmental scientists and specialists was $66,250 in May 2014.

For further information about the bachelor’s in environmental sciences program at SIUE, please contact the CAS Academic Advising Office 618-650-5525, or Lin at 618-650-2650 or

Central to SIUE’s exceptional and comprehensive education, the College of Arts and Sciences has 19 departments and 85 areas of study. More than 300 full-time faculty/instructors deliver classes to more than 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Faculty help students explore diverse ideas and experiences, while learning to think and live as fulfilled, productive members of the global community. Study abroad, service-learning, internships, and other experiential learning opportunities better prepare SIUE students not only to succeed in our region’s workplaces, but also to become valuable leaders who make important contributions to our communities.

Cleveland-Heath Debuts Early Summer Menu

Cleveland-Heath chef Ed Heath is fresh off his very first James Beard Foundation award nomination, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowing things down at his landmark Edwardsville eatery. Heath and his team, including his wife Jenny Cleveland, try to change up the menu every six weeks as different ingredients become available locally. This week, that means ditching dishes before they’ve “overstayed their welcome,” according to Heath, in favor of lamb, plus in-season asparagus and strawberries.

The new lamb dish will be shawarma with Indian pickles, tahini and hummus, sourced from Midwest Lamb’s Jenna Pohl. The lamb is pasture-raised and grass-fed in Charleston, Illinois. Heath says Pohl’s supply is just now getting into full swing, so he didn’t want to completely nix a favorite.

“I didn’t want to take it off the menu. We’ve done two different lamb dishes already [this year], Cubana and Moroccan,” he says. “So we’re going to switch over and do something Lebanese now – I really love Lebanese food.”

Other early summer dishes debuting this week include burrata cheese with local asparagus, black pepper and char roe, a soft shell crab boil and a rotating ceviche tostada with ingredients like rock shrimp, bay scallops and possibly poached oysters. “I’m really excited about that one,” Heath admits. He’s also adding more salads and some corn here and there to “pray for a really good corn season this year.”

Unfortunately, diners will have to say goodbye to the Swedish meatballs with egg noodles, yogurt, jam and parsley, and the boquerones with sauce gribiche, paprika and herbs on pillow loaf toast. Another casualty is the shaved raw beef and celery kung pao – Heath’s favorite dish on the menu – which he says is just too hot for the next few weeks.

“I want to do a veggie-heavy menu, and I keep trying, but since there’s not a ton of local stuff available right now, I get pushed into doing stuff that’s not really veggie-heavy,” Heath says. “We’ve been getting some awesome local asparagus lately – there are a couple teeny tiny farms [nearby]. I’m hoping to get some eggplant popping up, too.”

Cleveland-Heath is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Thursday from 11am to 10pm, Friday from 11am to 11pm and Saturday from 10am to 11pm.

Cleveland-Heath, 106 N. Main St., Edwardsville, Illinois, 618.307.4830,

Feast Magazine

City officials to create a business district for Montclaire Shopping Center

The Montclaire shopping center in Edwardsville may get its own business district to help fund a $2 million improvement, and the city may be creating a tax increment financing district along with it.

Montclaire includes a number of small shops like The Bike Shop, Edwardsville Flea Market, The Tot Spot and the Deals bargain store. But it also has some empty storefronts, and the building is showing its age.

Now city officials are working with owner R.L. Jones Properties to create a business district for the entire block, one that would add a 1-percent sales tax for the next 23 years. That would bring the sales tax in Montclaire up to 8.1 percent, the same as the Edwardsville Crossing business district on the other side of Troy Road that helped fund the Dierbergs plaza.

“(Montclaire) has come on some disrepair and it is difficult to attract new tenants,” said Edwardsville economic developer Walter Williams. “With the other shopping centers going in around Edwardsville, they need to spruce up to attract tenants.”

The center is about 77 percent full, with the largest vacancies recently created with the closures of a rent-to-own furniture and appliance store and the Crushed Grapes wine store. Remaining tenants include Pantera’s Restaurant, El Maguey and the Illinois Secretary of State Driver’s License Bureau, among others.

“The owners feel if they improve the exterior conditions, it will make the center more attractive,” Williams said. It sits along Troy Road, one of the busiest streets in town, but it is an older section compared to the new developments further south along Troy Road or in Edwardsville Crossing. Williams could not say exactly how old the building was.

“We want to see them continue to be successful in Edwardsville,” said Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton, who said he is very much in favor of the plan. “It is an older area of town, and people tend to drive by those areas if they’re not kept up.”

The plan includes new parking lots, roof work, facade improvements and other infrastructure details, which would include not only the main strip of stores, but the outbuilding that used to house Crushed Grapes and the Rapid Lube oil-change facility on the corner, Williams said.

The business district would simply add the 1-percent sales tax on to sales within that block, which then would be dedicated to assisting the building owner with the renovations. It’s a much simpler business district plan than most, Williams said, because the entire block is owned by one company. All the businesses are tenants, including Dan Vetter, owner of Edwardsville Flea Market. His business hosts more than 35 independent vendors selling antiques and collectibles in the Montclaire shopping center.

“I think it’s an excellent project that’s going to boost the economy in Edwardsville,” he said. “We’re all really excited about it.” He said he hopes that the higher sales tax won’t make a difference in sales, since they will be matching the Edwardsville Crossing rate, and it will be more than offset by the improvements.

But that isn’t all the city has planned for the middle section of town. Plans for a tax increment financing district are also in the works, stretching from the Keller Construction area on Center Grove through some of the older businesses along Plum Street and First Avenue to connect with Montclaire. Setting aside any increased property taxes within that district would allow the city to reinvest in infrastructure, bury utilities, create a streetscape environment and help development, Williams said.

“The idea is to connect all this and have the incentives available,” Patton said. “It’s important to be prepared and have the tools available for investors to attract to Edwardsville…. We do not want to neglect the middle part of the community.”

Williams hinted that a major retailer may have interest in property along those roads, but preexisting environmental contamination may make them hesitant. By having a TIF district in place, he said, funds would be available to help any such retailer remediate those properties and make them feasible for use.

Keller Construction in particular takes up a large amount of property along Center Grove Road, situated between two large retail districts and a movie theater. The construction company’s property sits behind a solid concrete wall, and stands out as an industrial use in a largely commercial and retail area.

“It’s a prime location,” Patton said. While no plans are currently on the books for Keller to move, Patton said they do own a significant property out by Route 255. “If someone comes along… we don’t know for sure, but it’s appropriate to be prepared,” he said.

The rest of the proposed TIF district is less well-known, off the main roads and often used by smaller businesses less dependent on foot traffic such as propane dealers or the Glen-Ed Food Pantry. One business only about a block from Troy Road is closing this fall: Bill’s Montclaire Floral, shutting down after more than 40 years in Edwardsville. The owner could not be immediately reached for comment, but the going-out-of-business sale has already begun.

A tax increment financing district is often a harder sell than a business district, as the latter only affects those who shop in the affect area. In a TIF district, any increase in property taxes is set aside in a special fund instead of going to the other taxing bodies. Most affected are schools, such as Edwardsville District 7, which receive the bulk of property taxes. Patton said he is meeting with new superintendent Lynda Andre this week to discuss the issue.

“We’ve been wise about incentives in the past, and I know the district has appreciated the growth that we’ve brought,” Patton said. “We will have more conversations with the school district.”

The business district is proceeding to a public hearing, the date of which has not yet been set. For the TIF district, the city has put out a request for proposals to do the initial study. Then a committee is formed of representatives from the various taxing bodies, who may weigh in at public hearings before the final decision is made.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at or 618-239-2507.

Anderson Hospital Edwardsville land deal expected to close Friday

Anderson Hospital will close on the purchase of a 10-acre parcel of land in Edwardsville, Ill. Friday, according to the broker working the deal.

The 10-acres Anderson is buying was part of a larger 49-acre parcel that was listed for slightly more than $16 million, according to Frank Chandler, associate broker for Edwardsville Landmark Realty who listed the property. Chandler said the deal is expected to close at 11 a.m. Friday.

The 154-bed, Maryville hospital has yet to decide what the land will be used for, hospital officials said in a statement. It’s possible officials will develop the land for either outpatient services like physician offices, imaging services, an urgent care facility or outpatient surgery. The site is about five miles away from the current hospital.

There’s no time table for developing the land, the statement reads.

“Like the city of Edwardsville, Anderson Hospital continues to plan proactively for the future,” said Keith Page, Anderson Hospital president.

On Feb. 3, all seven city council members approved an annexation agreement with Anderson Hospital. The site is south of Governors Parkway and District Drive in Edwardsville, Walt Williams, economic community development director for Edwardsville, told the Post-Dispatch.

Samantha Liss

Planet Fitness building $7 million gym in Edwardsville

A franchisee has announced plans to build a $7.5 million Planet Fitness health club in Edwardsville.

The two-story, 30,000-square-foot gym and fitness center will be built at the corner of Center Grove Road and Illinois 159. Franchisee John Clancy said the new metro-east locale will be a flagship for his group, Planet Fitness Midwest, as several more locations are planned for the greater St. Louis area.

“There are really no low-cost options in Edwardsville, Clancy said. ‘We saw a big void and an underserved area. We love Edwardsville. It’s super regional, and we just love the town.”

Clancy said the Edwardsville gym is expected to open in the fall of 2015.

Clancy said the Edwardsville location will staff 15 employees and offer members 125 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, including treadmills, stair climbing machines, elliptical and stationary bikes with an HDTV for each machine. Members will also have access to the PF 30-Minute Express Circuit, PF 12- Minute AB/Core Circuit, two massage chairs and three hydro-massage beds.

Planet Fitness Midwest opened its first Planet Fitness last April across the river in Overland, Mo. The group also plans to open a location adjacent to Mid Rivers Mall in St. Peters, Mo. and another in Wentzville, Mo.

The group opened the first of several Planet Fitness locations in the greater Cincinnati area in 2012. That year, the franchisee opened in Finneytown, Ohio and two more in northern Kentucky. Last year, others were established in Cincinnati; Springdale, Ohio; and Milford, Ohio.

The chain was founded in 1992 and today totals 900-plus gyms that provides fitness memberships for as low as $10 a month. Chief operating officer Michael Hamilton said Planet Fitness provides a judgment-free, clean and comfortable place to work out at a great value.

“We’re thrilled at the chance to expand our offering and bring a dozen new locations to the St. Louis metro area,” Hamilton said in a released statement. “We’re excited to be opening our flagship Planet Fitness health club in Edwardsville.”

Contact reporter Will Buss at or 618-239-2526.
Belleville New-Democrat