WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Galesburg Completes Key Downtown Road Project

Jul 18, 2018

Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday morning for a ceremony to mark the opening of the East Main Street underpass.  It will allow emergency vehicles and other drivers to get around that part of town without being stopped by trains.

“About 150 freight trains a day come through Galesburg. So these grade separations are very helpful,” said Mayor John Pritchard, citing the overpasses on West Main Street and Seminary Street as also benefitting drivers.

The underpass is named in honor of the late Reverend Jon Sibley Sr. of Galesburg.  He grew up in the community and his accomplishments include:

  • Served in the U.S. Air Force
  • Served as a Galesburg police officer
  • Served as a Trooper for the Illinois State Police
  • Served on the Carl Sandburg College Board of Trustees
  • Served as the Minister of Full Gospel Church
  • Served as a member of the Galesburg chapter of the NAACP

While with the ISP, Sibley served as one of the primary field training officers for Macomb Mayor Mike Inman during Inman’s early days with the agency.  Inman was on hand for the underpass dedication ceremonies.

“He was a great man of faith. A character and a man of character.  Always smiling. He could bring people together,” said Inman.  “It’s a real honor to be up here and witness this today.”

Tony Franklin speaks as Mayor John Pritchard (left) and Governor Bruce Rauner look on.
Credit Rich Egger

During the ceremonies, Tony Franklin of Sibley’s church spoke on behalf of Sibley’s family. 

“We all need to commit to communicating and continuing the work that was started by Pastor Sibley to create a beloved community here in Galesburg,” said Franklin.

“Not only will his legacy live on through his family but he also lives on through everyone that he touched.”

Governor Bruce Rauner also attended the ceremony and he too touched on themes of unity and cooperation, praising the collaborative approach to funding the project.  He said BNSF contributed money as did the local, state, and federal governments.

“It’s a great example of a public-private partnership.  And as a result, we have a beautiful underpass here, increasing the quality of life, increasing safety, reducing congestion,” said Rauner.

Underpass cookies!
Credit Rich Egger

The program handed out for the ceremony said the total construction cost was $25.5 million and that the work took about a year-and-a-half to complete.

Andy Williams of BNSF praised the finished product.

“From a railroad perspective, it may very well be the prettiest underpass on the entire 32,500 mile network,” Williams said, adding Galesburg is probably one of the proudest places on the BNSF network. “We like to say all roads lead to Galesburg.”