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Update on Highway 34 expansion plan

Illinois Department of Transportation
A state map of a portion of the project.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDoT) has revised the preferred route for an expanded Highway 34 from Gulfport to Biggsville.

It proposed the change to lift the highway into the 500-year floodplain. The previous proposed path placed it in a 100-year floodplain.

IDoT held a virtual public hearing on its plan on November 17, and will continue to accept written comments through November 29. A link to contact information, audio of the public hearing, and more can be found here

The agency will then strive to complete its Phase 1 study and a couple other reports in the coming months. Anything after that remains up in the air.

“We are unable to fund Phase 2 engineering and land acquisition until construction is funded. We don’t know when that will occur,” said Karen Dvorsky, IDoT’s District 4 Program Development Engineer.

The nine-mile stretch of highway will be expanded from two lanes to four. Currently it is one of two remaining sections of two‐lane Route 34 from Ottumwa, Iowa to Galesburg, Illinois. The other stretch is from Biggsville to Monmouth.

The total estimated cost of the Gulfport to Biggsville project is $156 million, including $131 million for construction. Dvorsky recommended supporters contact their state and local lawmakers to push for funding.

IDoT said the road should be expanded to address existing and projected traffic volumes. IDoT said it chose the proposed new path, aka Alternative 2, because:

  • It has the lowest impact to productive cropland, prime and important farmland, farm severances, and irrigated (center pivot irrigation) land
  •  It requires midrange amount of new right‐of‐way, and it has the highest utilization of the existing U.S. 34 right‐of‐way, improving traffic flow
  • It is favored by the general public

During the virtual public hearing, several residents inquired about losing property, including homes, to the project. They wanted to know when they would be notified and when their property would be taken.
“What we do in land acquisition is that once we have a very good idea that your home would be bought, we would contact you first and let you know as soon as possible so we don’t keep you in suspense or keep you wondering what will happen,” said Jim Miller, Land Acquisition Engineer.

“We want to make sure we know what’s going to happen to your property before we contact you and get you all worried.”

He said it is too soon to notify property owners because the plan could still be modified. He said those with questions should contact IDoT.

The project has been a long time in the making. IDoT completed its original study in 2003.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.