By Jim Hagerty
The City of Rockford, City of Loves Park and Rockford Park District were recipients of grants of more than $1.2 million from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) announced Monday, April 14.
This City of Rockford was awarded $740,000 for its “Rails-to-Trails” multi-use project that will turn a former railroad bridge into a pedestrian and bicycle path spanning the Rock River. The bridge connects an existing multi-use path located in Davis Park near the Amerock building to a new path being developed as part of the new Morgan Street Bridge on the east side of the river.
Officials say the new bridge will promote alternative forms of transportation that connects high concentrated employment centers with surrounding neighborhoods.
“The bridge is an important connector,” Program Manager Jon Paul, of Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, said. “It will create another connection between those neighborhoods on the east west sides of the river—alternative modes of transportation for individuals in those neighborhoods.”
The Rockford Park District, City of Loves Park, and Woodward Inc., are partnering to develop an extension of the existing Willow Creek Trail with grants totaling $502,120. The project is part of the master development plan for the new Woodward Rock Cut Campus currently under construction. The park district and the City of Loves Park applied for ITEP fund to assist with the construction of a pedestrian path bridge connecting the existing path to a new mult-iuse path and trailhead.
“The Rockford Park District is very excited to receive this grant for the extension of the Willow Creek trail system,” Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said. “The longstanding relationship the district enjoys with the City of Loves Park has provided the opportunity to connect the path with the Woodward Rock Cut campus. The construction of a bridge across Willow Creek is a much needed addition to the path system. By working together, we will leverage local tax dollars with grant funding to expand this widely used recreational path. This will be a great addition to the Loves Park and Machesney Park area.”
Loves Park Director of Public Works and Development added: “The project really fulfills a big need. With the Woodward project going up, the grant will allow us to extend the Willow Creek path. And that will serve the community in a big way.”
The Sumner Park District in Pecatonica ($213,500), Rockton ($551,100) also received ITEP funding. The Sumner Park project will include trailhead access by means of an ADA-compliant bike path for the general public wishing to access the Pecatonica Prairie Path.
Rockton’s grant will build a 10-foot path along East Rockton Road that connects the Dorr Road Bike Path and Stone Bridge Trail to retail shopping, a clinic and other commerce. Currently, pedestrians and bicycles have to use gravel shoulders along a two-lane, 45 mph road to access the area. This project will provide safer access for pedestrians to the commercial area and the existing paths.
“These grants will make our communities better places in which to live and work,” Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said. “They promote outdoor activity and help make us more proud of what our home towns have to offer.”
The ITEP program is designed to promote alternative transportation options, including bike and pedestrian travel, along with streetscape beautification. The federal funds are awarded competitively, and any local or state government is eligible to apply. Local matching funds are required, and work must begin on the projects within three years. For the current round of funding, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) received 232 applications requesting ITEP federal funding totaling nearly $260.5 million.