By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
MACOMB, Ill. -- Progress continues on the grading portion of a key area of the Macomb bypass that will ultimately serve as the final link in the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway.
So does the behind-the-scenes work to come up with the $32.5 million needed to complete the paving of a two-lane, 6.7-mile version of the bypass that is the final link in the C-KC corridor and will connect U.S. 67 north of Macomb with Ill. 336 west of the city.
The Illinois Department of Transportation says the two-lane version could be completed by late 2015 or early 2016 if the funding is secured by the time the two-year grading project involving overpasses at U.S. 136/Jackson Street and Adams Street is finished. Work at those sites began in July.
Progress updates and answers to questions connected with the bypass project were made available by IDOT at a two-hour open house Tuesday night at Macomb City Hall. Macomb-area citizens were joined by several IDOT representatives, plus local and regional backers of the bypass.
First and foremost on the mind of Thomas A. Oakley, a member of the Transportation Committee of the Tri-State Development Summit, was securing the needed $32.5 million to complete the two-lane version of the bypass. Oakley said work continues to come up with the money.
"The only part of the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway not completed is this bypass," Oakley said. "When it is, it will provide a 532-mile (expressway), connecting Chicago and Kansas City. The economic benefits of having a bypass in place will be incredible, and the sooner we can (get it done), the sooner cities along the C-KC will see those benefits."
Oakley also emphasized the importance of the bypass from a logistical standpoint.
"The traffic that will be traveling on that bypass will not have to go through Macomb," he said.
Funding has been in place for three of four projects needed to complete the bypass, dating to a 2009 state capital bill, but no funds were available for the 6.7-mile stretch of needed paving to punctuate the project.
To accelerate construction of the bypass to carry vehicles around Macomb and avoid sending expressway traffic along city streets, highway supporters are backing the idea of the two-lane bypass and expanding it to four lanes as more funds become available.
The two-lane bypass can also be completed much more cheaply than a four-lane version.
"A ballpark figure for the four-lane bypass would be about $80 million," said Tom Lacy, an IDOT studies and plans engineer.
Highway supporters are working closely with lawmakers and transportation officials at the state and federal level to secure the $32.5 million needed to move the two-lane plan forward.
"Building two lanes will enable us to have a bypass open, with cars driving on it, in three years," Oakley said.
Lacy said the $35 million grading project has remained on schedule and he foresees no problems finishing it.
IDOT officials were also dealing with concerns of landowners near the bypass construction.
IDOT representative Jim Miller said there were no unusual problems.
"People just want to know how close (parts of the project) may come to their property," Miller said. "We're dealing with 43 different (landowners)."
Another area of concern for such a wide-ranging project involves road closings and detours, especially when it comes to how emergency vehicles will need to operate during construction periods.
"It's all part of the process," said John Maguire, a spokesman for McDonough District Hospital, who is also chairman of the Macomb Chamber of Commerce. "We have worked very closely with IDOT and don't anticipate any problems. It's just a matter of knowing when and where the (changes) will be."