Editorial: Whitman project Morrissey’s last stand

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] long-rumored redevelopment of the Whitman Street/North 2nd Street interchange was finally revealed Tuesday night. It’s a plan 50 years too late to fix the problems the limited-access junction has given to Rockford, but certainly one we are happy to see.

The plan, which would see the elimination of the unsightly ramps and overpasses, as well as see 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 9th streets turned back into two-way traffic, has been kicking around City Hall since a 2012 viability study.

As rumors swirled last summer that Mayor Larry Morrissey would not be seeking a fourth term, the Whitman plan was alleged to be his final legislative push. One source told The Times last summer that, “Even if it’s on his last day, Morrissey will make sure this is out there before he walks out the door.”

And so it is, with the Gorman hotel project finally through the city council, that in his final week in office Morrissey was out Tuesday night to rally the troops one last time. The visuals on display at Prairie Street Brewhouse did the trick for those who came down to see them. Rockford could actually reclaim a massive hunk of greenland, produce space for new development, and reconnect neighborhoods directly adjacent downtown to the city’s center.

Morrissey said Tuesday that he couldn’t leave this for the incoming mayor to sell to the community, but he felt assured that Tom McNamara has the experience in council to see through such a massive overhaul of a cornerstone of the city’s physical infrastructure.

It’s a proposal the Public Works department has slowly built over the last five years. It’s a win for everyone at the table. It’s the kind of big picture project Morrissey said he felt compelled to get off the ground before leaving government.

It’s a good proposal, albeit one still in its infancy. It’s a proposal that will ultimately save the community money while reopening portions of it to the ongoing rejuvenation of downtown. It will allow key greenways to finally connect previously cut off neighborhoods.

It’s overdue, but it’s finally here. And it’s a project the entire community should be able to get behind.

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