Approval of Arch Tax means jobs are coming

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Artist rendering of the improved Arch grounds.
Artist rendering of the improved Arch grounds.

With union support and boots on the ground pushing for it, Proposition P, commonly known as the Arch Tax, was approved by voters in St. Louis City and St. Louis County April 2.

The 3/16ths of one-cent sales tax increase will raise roughly $31 million a year to fund improvements around the Gateway Arch, local parks and regional trails.

And it will create jobs – an estimated 530 new union construction jobs each year for the three-year construction phase, according to Mike Kelly, president of the Kelley Group, and an anticipated 4,400 new permanent jobs as a result of increased tourism throughout the region and downtown.

The measure was endorsed by both the St. Louis Labor Council and the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.

“I’m happy that it passed,” St. Louis Labor Council President Bob Soutier said. “I’m happy that the voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County saw the need to improve our Arch grounds. It’s truly a national landmark, and I think anything we can do to improve the grounds, and improve the experience down there is a good thing.”

The Arch ground improvements will include construction of a landscaped cap over Interstate 70 along the west side of the Arch grounds, along with new paths, landscaping and sidewalk cafes on the landing along the Mississippi River.

Of the roughly $31 million a year the sales tax will raise, about 40 percent – or $12.56 million – will go to local parks. The remaining 60 percent – about $18.84 million – will go to Great Rivers Greenway, the managing agent for construction procurement for the Arch grounds, trails and greenway projects.

“We look forward to having a good relationship with them,” said Jeff Aboussie, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council. “They have a good track record with the building trades. They build 100 percent union. Having the ability to have it under Missouri prevailing wage and to show value to local contractors is critical.”

That wasn’t always possible in the past, when working with the National Parks Service, Aboussie said, because National Parks Service projects go to the lowest bidder.

The Arch project, Aboussie said, will allow the Parks Service, which maintains the Arch grounds, to see the value of having local contractors and putting people from the region back to work.

“Those things are pivotal,” he said. “It will create an abundance of work and, most importantly, begin to revitalize downtown and that riverfront. This is just another component of selling St. Louis, selling downtown.”

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