A proposed 300-foot wide highway that connects Route 6 near Mossville to Interstate 74 east of Morton means economic opportunity for some and the loss of family farm ground for others.
Studies, plans, discussions of how to link Route 6 and Interstate 74 through Tazewell County have been going on in one form or another for more than 16 years.
Current discussion focuses on four possible routes narrowed by a citizens’ committee working with the Illinois Department of Transportation.
More than 100 Tazewell and Woodford county residents attended the meeting Dec. 6 at Countryside Banquet hall in Washington where IDOT officials gave an overview of the project where the current plan stands after more than four years of study.
With four corridors selected, IDOT is ready to submit the proposals to the Federal Highway Administration in the agency’s efforts to secure federal funding for the project.
Kent Clifton, an area resident who attended the Dec. 6 meeting, is far from convinced that there needs to be a highway built at all.
“One of the corridors goes right through my property,” Clifton said. “I don’t see why we need it. And with the condition our state is in, who can afford to build it?”
Richard Criddlebaugh, chairman of the East Peoria Planning Commission, was a citizens group member who quested how much would be paid by the state. If the project is approved by the FHA, federal funds would be used to pay for it.
IDOT Project Engineer Mike Lewis said he is hopeful the project receives funding, the federal portion will be 90 percent.
However, how much the project will cost is still far from being determined but it could easily run into the hundreds of millions. Another unknown is a timeline for construction of the highway. Project team members say the current plans are looking 20 years from now before any concrete gets poured.
IDOT officials also point out that not building the highway is still an option as the study continues.
Morton Mayor Norm Durflinger and Tazewell County Board Member Greg Sinn are hopeful that the road can be built.
“A road on the eastside of Peoria that connects Mossville to Morton would make for faster, safer traveling as well as a great connection for Caterpillar,” Durflinger said. “It also would give Morton another area of opportunity for economic development.”
Durflinger said the two interstates already through Morton I-155 and I-74, have been important economic development drivers for his village.
Sinn added that an interstate through Tazewell County would make the whole county easier to access for companies and actually open up the whole county to more development opportunities.
Meanwhile, other voices on the committee group questioned whether the highway would bring in uncontrolled and undesired growth in a mostly rural area in Tazewell and Woodford counties.
Page 2 of 2 - “What kind of quality of life will we be bringing here?” asked one member of the citizens’ committee.
Using Route 8 upgrades through East Peoria and Washington as an example, one committee member questioned whether some current roads could be improved or upgraded to handle more traffic.
Included in the discussion was a consensus that another bridge over the Illinois River is needed. The area under consideration is connecting Route 6 at Mossville to Woodford County in the Spring Bay area.
IDOT officials said the study has been broken into two sections, with the first section including the bridge.
“But we don’t want to get too far ahead with that part of the project,” Lewis said. “We still need it to be feasible and we don’t want to build a bridge that doesn’t solve the traffic problems we are trying to tackle.”
Also at the meeting, IDOT asked the citizens committee to consider whether one of the four options — called D13—should be dropped. D13 is the farthest east corridor under consideration and uses or follows roughly the Dee-Mack Road. The corridor cuts right through family farmland worked by Metamora residents Jim Wiegand and Russel Klein.
“This is very productive farmland and I’d hate to see it taken out of production,” Wiegand said.
“When you see me race out of here doing cartwheels, you know they’ve dropped this plan,” Klein said.
Unfortunately for Wiegand and Klein, the corridor is still under consideration.
The proposed road could take 1,300 to 1,700 acres of farmland depending on which corridor is selected.
The four corridors are roughly 500 feet wide paths through Tazewell and Woodford counties that could be studied further to determine where the highway could be located if the project goes forward.
Two corridors — called P-2 and T-6 — run west of Washington and separate it from its Sunnyland neighborhood. A third corridor — M-10— which would roughly use or follow Main Street south of Washington is also under consideration.
IDOT project team members will work during the next few months to develop a report to FHA based on the proposed four corridors and public comment on the plan.
It could be November 2013 before the project will be ready for a final public inspection and comment.