Cardinals' stadium deal would affect ramp for freeway

Wednesday, May 8, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- If the devil in plans for a new St. Louis Cardinals stadium is in the details, some are pointing to a freeway ramp.

The Eighth Street entrance ramp to eastbound Interstate 64 -- Highway 40 -- will have to be demolished to make way for the new stadium, with a new ramp to be built to replace it.

The issue: Neither the Cardinals nor highway officials can say for sure exactly where a new ramp could go -- or how much money taxpayers ultimately may have to pay for it.

Still, state and regional officials say the Cardinals' cost estimate of $12.5 million for a project to redo ramps to the freeway -- and to reconfigure streets around the proposed $346 million ballpark -- is too low.

And the project isn't in the Missouri Department of Transportation's current five-year plan, meaning that if the new ramp is to be built, some other area project of equivalent cost must be delayed five years.

"This is a missing link in the plan here -- we don't have the money," Transportation Department spokeswoman Linda Wilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The project list can change, she said, "but whose project isn't going to be built so this one can be?"

Besides demolishing one ramp and building a new one, the Cardinals' "transportation infrastructure project" would abandon some streets and build others, modify MetroLink platforms, lay new curbs and sidewalks, and install new streetlights and traffic signals.

Les Sterman, executive director of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council that oversees area highway projects that get federal money, said $12.5 million "does sound pretty low, if that includes all of those things."

"Where are we going to get the money? It's not in any of our programs, and given the squeeze on dollars, it would be difficult," Sterman said. "We would have to bump some other project to make room."

Another cost will be inconvenience to Illinois residents leaving Cardinals' games or downtown offices: There could be a couple of years between the current ramp's demolition -- which could come as early as December -- and its replacement. Illinoisans would have to get onto eastbound Highway 40 at another ramp.

Counting costs

As part of the stadium package, the Cardinals are agreeing to put $6.25 million into the infrastructure fund. The city, St. Louis County and state would contribute a like amount. If the governments provide more, the Cardinals' contribution would be reduced dollar for dollar.

Cardinals spokesman Richard Callow said people who performed engineering and design studies for the Cardinals came up with the $12.5 million estimate and that public officials agreed to the figure.

One cost unmentioned is land acquisition, which Wilson called particularly high in cities because one is paying not only for the property but compensating the owner lost future income from the land.

But the land costs are unknown because neither the Cardinals nor public officials have a solid idea of the new ramp's exact location. When asked if the $12.5 million estimate included land acquisition, Callow said, "it's the number we agreed would be the cost of the infrastructure project. And, if it costs more, we will work with the public partners to find the rest."

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