Where the Rails Cross the River
Local leaders of the Route 29 viaduct improvement project learned this week that the much-sought after TIGER grant – federal funds for ready-to-go transportation projects in the US –went to a multi-modal project in Champaign. The second grant awarded in Illinois – this one for the Chicago area – will go for a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge near the lakefront.
During the summer, Mike Krost, who has led efforts to secure the grant, and I had meetings with state and federal officials to make the case why Chillicothe deserved the award. We had support from our U.S. senators, Congressman Schock, Rep. Leitch and Sen. Darin LaHood. In a late June conference call with Sen. LaHood, Sen. Durbin’s office and a U.S. Department of Transportation official, we were told that there were seven applications for TIGER funds submitted from Chicago and 19 downstate. All were good projects and picking one or two would be tough.
Chillicothe had letters of support from local officials, mayors of Lacon, Henry and Princeton and endorsements from our state and federal representatives. The grant process is a competitive one, and at the end of the day, various factors go into the decision. Unfortunately, we again came up short.
On Tuesday, Oct 7, Mike Krost and I attended a public hearing on local Illinois Department of Transportation projects. No additional funding – state or federal – has been identified for the viaduct. Some property on the west side of Route 29 has been acquired by the state and demolition could begin in the next few months. After that, without funding, no additional work is scheduled although the project remains in the IDOT plan. We hope that a new Congress and a new Illinois General Assembly will be able to support a major capital bill that will fund the viaduct and other much needed infrastructure improvement projects.
For now, IDOT has replaced the road surface, added new signs and reflective panels. We appreciate what’s been done and will continue to lobby for a long-awaited major upgrade.