Group supports road work referendum

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-115212769830655.jpg’, ”, ‘Gov. Rod Blagojevich’);

Area roads in northwest Illinois have been neglected for long enough.

“Roads are being built in the state, just not here. We think our projects in northern Illinois should be funded,” John Chadwick, of the Northern Illinois Area Coalition, said.

He and the Coalition hope a countywide advisory referendum will encourage state lawmakers to pass a capital plan, which would fund major road projects in Illinois. Those projects include the U.S. 20 West bypass construction project. The project has a more than $20 million price tag. Chadwick said that stretch of U.S. 20 has been on the back burner for at least 50 years. He said plans to make it four-lane from Rockford to Freeport never came to fruition.

“I don’t think we’ve spoken as a region,” Chadwick said.

State Rep. Jim Sacia (R-89) said U.S. 20 “has been my passion since before I was elected (in 2002).” Sacia confirmed there’s been talk of making U.S. 20 a four-lane highway since 1955. He stressed every area legislator supports passing a capital construction bill. But he said he’d only support the proposed legislation if there were a secure revenue stream and the bill had a significant impact on the 89th District area, specifically near Freeport.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich unveiled the Highway Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2007-2012 in February. The $10.4 billion program compliements more than $2 billion already available for infrastructure improvements, according to a press release. That money would fund improving U.S. 20, from Freeport to Galena; the Galena bypass, from Illinois 84 to Horseshoe Mound; and the Freeport bypass, from U.S. Business 20 West to west of Illinois 26.

Stephenson County has earmarked $20 million for the expansion of U.S. 20 West from Illinois 26 to AYP Road, according to its Jan. 11 County Board minutes.

Freeport Mayor George Gaulrapp described U.S. 20 as the “economic bloodstream for northwest Illinois.” Gaulrapp said the highway needs improving from Freeport to Iowa. According to Gaulrapp, he has discussed the issue with both Sacia and State Sen. Todd Sieben (R-45). He said legislators need to get the project on the radar and fight for funding in Springfield.

“Getting one strong voice will help us on more than one project,” Gaulrapp said.

From the July 5-11, 2006, issue

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