According to today's Post-Dispatch, the Village of Bethalto, IL is the latest beneficiary of suburban sprawl in metropolitan St. Louis.
Historically, Bethalto, located in Madison County, was a mining town; more recently, it's been pretty much a suburb of Alton.
Looking at the village zoning map, it's clear that the original part of town was oriented on a slightly tilted axis, parallel to the railroad line near its intersection with Prairie Street. That railroad line was converted to a road in the 1960s, now known as Erwin Plegge Blvd.
The southern 1/3 of the village is taken up by St. Louis Regional Airport, originally opened in 1946 as Civic Memorial Airport. Part of their grounds were developed as a business park in the 1980s.
The rest of the village is mostly taken up by subdivisions built in the 1960s and later. There is a pretty significant amount of green space, as well.
Credit for the growth is being given to the northward extension of Interstate Highway 255, known as Illinois 255. The portion of IL 255 from I-270 to IL 143 (AKA Alton-Edwardsville Road) opened in 1998.
Now, in June 2006, the section leading even further north, into Bethalto, is expected to open. The route runs roughly along the western boundary of the village, intersecting with and then just west of IL 111. The final part, from Fosterburg Road just north of Bethalto, clear out to US 67 in Godfrey, will take a few years longer to build.
Much of the route has been laid out for highway construction for years, so very few houses were taken. Major interchanges are planned at IL 111 (just south of Bethalto in Wood River), at IL 140 in Bethalto, and at Fosterburg Road.
However, while some development is expected along IL 255, especially at the IL 111 and IL 140 interchanges, the major new housing developments are happening on cornfields on the EAST edge of Bethalto, along Moreland Road, several miles east of the new pseudo-Interstate corridor.
Bethalto has limited transit service provided by Madison County Transit:
#12 Bethalto Shuttle that runs once-an-hour from 7 AM to 7 PM (Monday-Friday only) and mainly seems to connect the older part of the town and a couple apartment complexes with the Wood River Wal-Mart and Illinois Driver Services; and
#12X Bethalto Express that heads to downtown St. Louis, via East Alton, Wood River and IL 111. It also runs weekdays, only at peak hour - three AM inbounds, three PM outbounds.
There is no bus service connecting directly to Alton; that would require a transfer on Fosterburg Road to the #11 Brown Shuttle. Getting to Edwardsville would require a transfer in Wood River to the #12 Alton-Edwardsville. Getting to St. Louis (except at rush hour) would require three transfers: one in Wood River to the #1 Riverbend, another in Granite City to the #5 Tri-City Metrobus, and a third onto MetroLink at 5th & Missouri East St. Louis.
Bethalto is not connected to the amazing MCT Trails network. Nor is it anywhere near the conceptual MetroLink routes being studied for MadCo.
All in all, Bethalto - particularly the eastern edge where new houses are going up like mad - is pretty far removed from the core of the St. Louis region, and is not very accessible by public transit. In ten years, this little town may look like St. Peters or O'Fallon (MO or IL, take your pick).
Crazy, isn't it?
And at what cost?