ST. LOUIS — MetroLink is getting a fresh facelift with several transit projects currently underway in the bi-state region.
Everyone from elected officials to stakeholders to even transit riders attended the virtual "Talking Transit" event on Wednesday, which lasted almost an hour and a half.
The conversation began with an update on the MetroLink expansion in Illinois by Patrick Judge, principal of Gonzalez Companies and project manager for the Illinois Light Rail Expansion Project to MidAmerica Airport.
Judge said there's been significant movement over the last six months on the 5.2-mile extension of the MetroLink Light Rail System. The extension will go from the existing Shiloh-Scott Transit Center to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
This project includes a new MetroLink station at MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, a 5-mile extension of the MetroBikeLink bike trail from the Shiloh-Scott Center to Mid-America, and a 2.4-mile access roadway that extends from Rieder Road to Airport Boulevard, according to Judge.
He said tree removal and water crossings are underway.
Judge said construction will begin soon and will be followed by systems, roadway access and bike trail paving.
Another conversation included an update on the $52 million Secure Platform Plan, which officials said embodies 39 different projects.
Those projects affect all current MetroLink stations, as well as new ones.
According to Kevin Scott, general manager of security for Bi-State Development and lead on the Secure Platform Plan, the first phase includes four MetroLink stations.
Those stations are in East St. Louis and the eastern edge of Belleville, including Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Emerson Park, Washington Park and College.
Scott also noted "the most visible accomplishment to date" which was the opening of the Real Time Camera Center. This is in operation 24/7.
He said later phases of this project include putting in gates, fencing and cameras.
Charles Stewart, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Metro Transit, ended the meeting with an operations update.
He said there has been an uptick in transit ridership over the last year.
According to Stewart, they saw a 5.2% increase on MetroBus and a 7% increase on MetroLink.
He added that, like many industries, MetroLink is experiencing worker shortages.
There is a need for more than 200 bus operators, 18 MetroLink operators, 79 Metro Call-A-Ride operators, as well as, mechanics and electricians, according to Stewart.
You can read more on the projects here.