Currently, Franklin County is not a member of the Bi-State Development Agency, but Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer says he would like to be.
This comes after the county commission approved an agreement with Bi-State earlier this month to participate in a freight district running through the county, in hopes it would further benefit the citizens and promote further economic development.
Griesheimer also hopes this agreement with Bi-State might lead to future partnerships as well on the mass transit front.
“I would love to see more mass transit activities in the county,” Griesheimer said. “A large section of our population drives to St. Louis every day for work and buses or light rail to this area would be a great asset for residents.”
Griesheimer added there was Bi-State bus service to the eastern edge of the county in the late 1990s when a series of grants funded the route to Pacific for about two years.
“There was a huge parking lot built to accommodate the buses, but when the grants ran out, so did the buses,” Griesheimer said. “Since then, several people have looked at mass transit in the county, but the costs are just too high.”
In years past, special bus routes have been offered to Franklin County for Cardinals baseball games and even as far back as Cardinals football.
A formal membership to Bi-State would not cost the county anything on the front end in the form of dues, but in the long run might lead to partnerships, studies and future funding streams for mass transit.
“To do it now, there would have to be some type of tax to residents to fund it and that would have to go to voters,” Griesheimer said. “It would take an awful lot for that to happen and we probably won’t ever see it in our lifetimes.”
Griesheimer said in addition to bus routes to and from St. Louis, he would like to see public transportation from town to town within the county as well and would even support Metrolink to expand to this area in the form of commuter trains.
“I’m open to all forms of transit,” Griesheimer said. “I’ve advocated for something like this for a long time. It would get people out of cars and help with traffic.”
He added in the mid-1990s when he was serving in the Missouri House, he played a role in getting the Amtrak stop located in Washington and over the years heard ideas of using the old Rock Island rail lines for commuter or tourism trains to the area.
“There have been a lot of ideas floated over the years, but nothing ever stuck,” Griesheimer said. “I’m supportive of whatever, whenever. This is a long time coming.”
Griesheimer said he has been playing phone tag with Bi-State executives and hopes to meet them in the very near future.
He would then pass on the pros and cons of becoming a Bi-State member with his fellow county commissioners for a future vote.