ST. LOUIS — A plan championed by a top St. Louis executive to remake the region's light-rail system with turnstile barriers advanced on Friday.

The leaders of St. Louis' transit agency, Bi-State Development, took preliminary steps on a $52 million project that would include installation of gates and turnstiles at MetroLink's 38 stations, plus the implementation of enhanced video surveillance, in response to safety concerns with the 46-mile system dating back years. The board of Bi-State, which operates Metro Transit, voted for the plan, allowing Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach to pursue financing for the project, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

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“A project of this size and scope, will require additional approvals, however, today’s board vote definitively reflects that Metro Transit will be moving towards a policy that will close the MetroLink system," Roach said in a statement Friday afternoon. "This is a new vision for public transit in St. Louis that is responsive to the needs of the public. We hope that this major improvement will be a catalyst towards system renewal and long-awaited expansion."

Bi-State documents say it could take 28 months to complete. Bidding will come later, and construction could take 24 months or longer, Roach said Friday.

Roach said the plan will create centralized customer entrances at all 38 MetroLink stations that can only be activated using a purchased ticket or pass. It also includes improved and increased fencing around the tracks, stations and platforms, plus the installation of monitored cameras across the 46-mile system.

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