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Macomb Prioritizes Street Improvement Projects

TSPR'S Emily Boyer
The W. Adams St. and N. Lafayette St. intersection will soon feature a median

Construction work is getting underway for a much anticipated public works project in Macomb. Meanwhile, delays in state and federal funding are forcing the city to reorganize some of its other infrastructure plans.Barricades are in place preventing vehicles from driving on W. Adams St. from N. Lafayette St. to N. Johnson St. The city was waiting for Western Illinois University's spring semester to wrap up before starting construction work.

The city plans to add a turn lane and widen sidewalks along W. Adams St. as well as create a landscaped median at the N. Lafayette St. intersection. There will also be upgrades to a nearby multi-use corridor and alleyway with the addition of a sidewalk and bike path running down to the railroad crossing.

Mayor Mike Inman said West Adams should be re-opened by the start of Western’s fall semester.

The project was originally going to encompass four blocks but it had to be scaled back to just two after the city’s applications for state grants was denied three separate times.

A lack of state and federal funding also forced the city to delay a much larger project.

Macomb had been working to finalize design plans for the downtown square revitalization project.  Inman said bids were scheduled to go out late fall or early winter with construction starting next spring.

Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer
Plans for the downtown square would remove a center row of parking, add road signs and greenery in an effort to increase visibility and safety.

The city had planned to secure grant money through the Illinois Traffic Enhancement Project (ITEP Fund) to help pay for the $3.5 million project. Inman said the city has received encouragement from the Illinois Department of Transportation that the downtown project is likely to qualify for the grant.

But the application process has yet not opened due to financial uncertainty at the state and federal levels.

“Rather than be left sitting here looking for someone to go dancing with next construction season, ad our preferred date not being available because there is no funding, we decided to shift our priorities to Candy Lane,” Inman said.

The improvements to Candy Lane will include adding curbs, gutters and drainage. Fourth Ward Alderman Tom Koch said the renovations will also address a safety concern by adding either a wide sidewalk or multi-use path along Candy Lane from E. Jackson St. to the southern city limits. 

Credit TSPR's Emily Boyer
S. Candy Lane runs from E. Jackson St. to the city limits

"There’s too many people walking on that street and riding bikes on that street and eventually someone is going to get injured,” Koch said.

There is state funding available for Candy Lane through Illinois’ Surface Transportation Urban money (STU Fund).  IDOT considers the road to be integral to the flow of city traffic because it connects a county highway with U.S. 67.

The city has hired an engineer to design the Candy Lane improvements and construction is scheduled to begin next spring. The project should cost around $4.25 million, with $2 million coming from the local infrastructure sales tax fund and the rest from Illinois’ STU fund.

Mayor Inman said it was a tough decision for the city council to move on to Candy Lane improvements before completing plans to revitalize the courthouse square.

“All of our eggs have been and will continue to be in the downtown basket, but we just thought it was inappropriate for us to… we can’t, we just can’t put everything else on hold dealing with one project,” Inman said. “We just have too many needs across the community and we have to be sensitive to that and this allows us to get one of those needs taken care of.”

Inman said the city council will again look at plans for the downtown square when grant money becomes available for the project.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.