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First contract awarded for turnstile ticketing, increased security at MetroLink stations

Passengers wait for the light rail train on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
The Grand Avenue MetroLink station, shown in January, is among 39 in line to have turnstiles, cameras and other security measures put into place.

The agency that oversees mass transit in the St. Louis region has approved the first contract in a plan to close off platforms and require a ticket to enter all 39 MetroLink stations, as well as take other security measures.

The Bi-State Development Agency’s Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to award a $6.9 million design and engineering contract to Kansas City-based HNTB. The company and its subcontractors will design and engineer the turnstiles, fencing, and camera installation.

It’s the first contract awarded for the project, which has been in the works since 2017. Design is expected to take at least a year. Construction, which is forecast to cost another $52 million, will take 24 to 30 months.

Kevin Scott, Bi-State’s general manager for security and the project’s leader, said when the work is complete, the secure platforms will “completely change” the dynamic of transit in the region.

“For the first time in a long time, we are leading in the industry,” he said. “As the St. Louis Metro transit system, we can stand proud and say, we are venturing into basically uncharted waters, and we are going to get this done.”

He said agencies across the United States and Canada are watching to see how Metro converts an open system to a closed one that requires riders to pay the fare before getting on the train.

Metro’s internal engineering staff had estimated the design of the system would cost about $4.3 million. HNTB’s original contract came in at more than $8 million; negotiations brought it down to the $6.2 million figure.

Bi-State board member Fred Pestello, president of St. Louis University, said that based on what he is seeing with projects at the university, commissioners need to be prepared for other estimates to be wrong.

“The pent-up demand, combined with the supply chain issues and the environment in which we’re working, has put us in the position where our estimates and guesstimates are not nearly as reliable as they have been historically when we’re operating in a more stable environment.” he said.

Scott and Bi-State CEO Taulby Roach said that the agency will be evaluating its estimating processes but that they were confident the construction costs would not move much.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.