Harrison Avenue set for reconstruction

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey has announced the construction schedule for the much-anticipated Harrison Reconstruction project.

The project, five years in the making, will feature a complete reconstruction from Mulford Road to Alpine Road, and an asphalt overlay from Alpine Road to Ohio Parkway. The anticipated construction start date is Aug. 14, 2006, with the project completion some time in late fall of 2007.

The first Harrison Avenue Corridor Study was completed in July 2000. The Study assessed traffic demand, mobility, safety and the role of the corridor in current and future economic development of the city and region. At the time of the study, the Springfield-Harrison connection that finished the beltway around the city of Rockford was under construction. The study identified the need for the upgrade of the corridor to link the southern portion of the city to the west side via the ring road system, composed of Harrison, Springfield, Riverside and Perryville. The project is the first step toward reconstruction of the southern portion of the ring.

With a project the scale of Harrison Avenue, the city was required to partner with IDOT and RATS to secure Federal Aid Surface Transportation (STU) funds for construction dollars. The city took on the responsibility for the funding of the design engineering and land acquisition portions of the project. The reconstruction and overlay, and landscaping and lighting will total approximately $11.5 million. The state’s share will be approximately 80 percent of the construction total with the remaining portion the responsibility of the city. The city has committed the majority of the available Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) funds for the project as a result of the defeat of the sales tax road referendum in the spring. The project will require the expenditure of approximately 50 percent of the yearly MFT funds allotted to the city.

Morrissey said: “This is a vital transportation project for the city, and it is an example of the types of quality road reconstruction projects we want to build in the future. It is built for maximum mobility for vehicles, accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists, and has amenities along the roadway including lighting and landscaping that improve the beauty of the corridor and the neighborhoods which it serves.”

The project includes 1.61 miles of complete removal and replacement of the existing roadway between Alpine and Mulford. This portion of the road will be constructed of Portland Cement Concrete. This section will also contain new traffic signals at Forest View Road, Eastrock Drive, Stowmarket Avenue and Mulford Road.

One of the more distinct features of the project will be the construction of a 10-foot wide, multi-use path that will run from Alpine to Mulford. This path system will be along the south side of Harrison Avenue until Stowmarket, where it crosses to the north side of the road. Future plans will have this path intersect with the Perryville Path, and then westward to the Rock River. This project will also include new landscaping, including several landscaped medians, and new street lighting.

One of the striking features of the Harrison Avenue corridor identified in the 2000 study was the diversity of neighborhoods that the road traverses. The corridor supports extensive industrial development and serves the regional U.S. Post Office facility, Sundstrand Corporation and the Eastrock Industrial Park. Harrison Avenue is an important gateway to the southeast and southwest corners of the city, and links many industries to I-90/I-39 and the Chicago/Rockford International Airport. The corridor also encompasses emerging commercial development, primarily on its eastern section. Harrison is also an important arterial that links many residential neighborhoods to employment locations throughout the city.

Over the years, there has been great temptation to try to Band-Aid Harrison Avenue rather than acknowledge the need for a complete reconstruction. Elected officials, particularly Rockford Ald. Dan Conness and Rockford Ald. Nancy Johnson, have publicly acknowledged the project required more than just a temporary solution. At times, the patience of the community was stretched, but by working together, a viable solution for the first phase of the corridor reconstruction will start in mid-August. The city believes this will be a project that the community feels was worth waiting for.

From the Aug. 16-22, 2006, issue

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