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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012 08:08 am

10th Street is the solution for a transit center

In last week’s Guestwork, environmentalist Will Reynolds argued that Third Street would be a better location for a multimodal transit center than 10th Street [see “Third Street better for transit center,” Sept. 13]. In response, Lou Dixon of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Wilday of Downtown Springfield, Inc., make the case for a 10th Street transit center.

The first railroad came to Springfield in 1842, running through the center of town to best serve the needs of the community at that time. Now, in the 21st century, we recognize that the community’s rail and transportation needs are vastly different. After years of multiple studies, the 10th Street corridor has emerged as the solution for rail relocation and development of a multimodal transport center that will incorporate passenger rail, bus and pedestrian travel.

In 2006 the Springfield Mass Transit District (SMTD) conducted a study to identify the best place for a multimodal center. The SMTD’s study recommended the 10th Street corridor over Third Street, due partly to the larger block size that can better accommodate both a bus transfer center and a passenger rail center. While the Amtrak Station has proven adequate as a train station, lack of space makes it impractical to accommodate a bus transit center as well. There was no other feasible location for such a center identified along the Third Street corridor.

Prior to the Tier 2 Environmental Impact Study, SMTD received funding for the initial phase of constructing a multimodal center and was beginning the process of buying the land identified as the best location for the center. Land acquisition is currently being held up since funding is contingent on identifying a location where rail and bus transfers can coexist, and studies – including the most recent Tier 2 Environmental Impact Study by IDOT – confirm that the 10th Street corridor is the best alternative. Without pursuing a solution on 10th Street, the opportunity for constructing a multimodal center will be lost. What will also be lost is the opportunity for commercial development around the center, better and more convenient transportation access, and a tourism-friendly solution that harnesses a location right across the street from the Prairie Capital Convention Center.

The effects of the location of passenger rail service in Springfield have been well documented and analyzed by professional and technical transportation staff. While two social service agencies are listed as potential properties that will be displaced with the development of the 10th Street corridor and multimodal center, one agency has been looking for a new building for several years. Both agencies will be fairly compensated and given proper relocation assistance. Overall, the 10th Street alternative caused fewer total displacements than any of the Third Street alternatives which require the construction of city-wide overpasses to mitigate transportation problems created by the additional freight and passenger rail traffic.

In each of the various rail and site selection studies prepared by professional and technical transportation staff, the 10th Street corridor has always emerged as the best solution for our community. The recent Tier 2 Environmental Impact Study confirms that we have the opportunity to make all portions of Springfield safer, improve connectivity, reduce vehicle delays (and gas consumption) and improve quality of life and economic opportunity through a modern multimodal center.

Lou Dixon is the chairman of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Wilday is the chairman of the Downtown Springfield, Inc. board of trustees.
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