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Flush with federal cash, St. Louis says it has $428M in infrastructure needs

More than $148 million in projects are deemed "critical," or essential to ensure continued operations

ST. LOUIS — The city of St. Louis is taking stock of its infrastructure needs as it's set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money. The local bill is big.

A government committee said Wednesday the city has $428 million in infrastructure needs. More than $148 million in projects are deemed "critical," or essential to ensure continued operations, while $224 million in other work will be needed to ensure continued operations in the future. Yet another $56 million in projects "would significantly improve" service or address "long delayed improvements in infrastructure," a city presentation said.

The tabulation comes as lawmakers debate how to spend the first allocation of federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Mayor Tishaura Jones has proposed an $80 million plan, including for direct economic relief; aldermen may want to push that tab higher. The city is expected to receive about $500 million from the federal stimulus bill, passed in March.

The thinking is that the city can use some or all of what remains from ARPA to address the infrastructure backlog. More money from the feds could also be used for those projects if Congress passes a subsequent infrastructure bill. Local budget surplus money could also be used for infrastructure projects. The city could also ask voters to approve a separate general obligation bond.

The stakes are high. A failure to adequately address the infrastructure needs using the unprecedented federal infusion could leave the city with limited options for some of the projects; it faces a "structural gap" as fixed costs increase while population continues to decline.

"I don't have enough capital funding in the budget to just keep putting a finger in the hole in the dam," Rich Bradley, the city official in charge of infrastructure projects via the Board of Public Service, said at a Wednesday meeting.

The needs come from various departments, including streets, parks, fire and police, corrections, and city buildings and vehicles, according to a presentation from Bradley.

Among the blockbuster asks:

  • $32 million to consolidate police, fire and EMS 911 call services and dispatching into a single location
  • $12 million to finish upgrades at the troubled downtown jail, where $7 million has already been allocated after inmate disturbances
  • $10 million to renovate 10 park buildings

More than $13 million in streetscape improvements are deemed "critical," including along Cass Avenue. The number totals more than $10 million for bridges, $35 million in parks projects, $12.5 million in the fire department, $9.2 million in the police department, $45 million for corrections, $15.8 million for city buildings and $6.7 million for city vehicles.

Read the full story on the St. Louis Business Journal website.