EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOX) – Last week, Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn quietly signed SB 20, the Economic Development Act of 2013, which, among other things, assists with the development of the Port of East St. Louis.
The bill frees up development funds for a number of large projects in the state, including the Port. In 2010, the project received $8 million in grants for redevelopment of the 200-acre site.
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks says a firm committment from the state earlier this year has allowed for the hiring of engineers to begin developing a road leading to the port.
“That will allow this port to be very much underway by this time next year. We expect the construction to be taking place somewhere beginning in the early spring of 2014 and a lot of the work to have been done by the end of 2014,” he says.
Estimates put the number of jobs to be created by the project at about 1,200. Parks says the plan will have far-reaching consequences by allowing companies “to move a lot of goods across the world by way of the Mississippi River.”
“People will really be able to see how they will be able to bring their major warehouses, their major coal moving place, their major grain moving and other types of large transit that need to take place,” the mayor says.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity established the River Edge Redevelopment Zone program in 2006 in hopes of stimulating development of river towns such as East St. Louis. Quinn’s signature last week further freed up funds for that purpose.
“Money has gone into the area of the engineering. There’s some construction management and there is some administrative work that is taking place but, as we all know, at the very beginning, you have to make sure that you have the foundation, the road map, laid,” Parks explains.
In the eyes of the mayor of a once-bustling transportation hub, the state funding offers a chance to rebuild.
“We have a river,” Parks said. “We need to act like it.”