QUINCY -- More than 100 people filled the Quincy University Hall of Fame Room on Tuesday evening to participate in a transportation forum that asked participants to identify strengths and weaknesses to Quincy's transportation system.
Maggie Strong said that participants were asked to identify areas where there are real-world transportation issues. Strong is the consultant hired by the city to help develop and implement the Quincy Next Strategic Plan.
"That is the beauty of this process," Strong said. "We all travel in and around Quincy, so we can all have real opinions on how we get to work, on how we get to the places where we play or relax, and how we get to our homes.
Included in those issues were identifying locations where traffic congestion is at its worst, where residents feel uncomfortable walking or bicycling, roads where drivers frequently speed, and how participants use the Quincy Amtrak station and Quincy Regional Airport. The forum was hosted by the City of Quincy, Quincy Next Strategic Plan committee and Lochmueller Group, a St. Louis-based company hired to compile a transportation assessment report.
Steve Wavering of Quincy said he supports efforts to expand walking and bicycling trails. "Quincy is probably a little bit behind other communities our size, or even smaller cities, when it comes to our trails," He said. He said simple fixes like extending sidewalks into all neighborhoods would make the city feel more connected.
"We have lots of sidewalks that are in segments because they may go for a few blocks and then stop," Wavering said. "We have entire subdivisions without sidewalks."
More than 30 participants ranked "investing in trails" as one of the things most needed.
Chris Beard, lead consultant for the Lochmueller Group, said he was not surprised by the response regarding trails and walkability.
"A lot of communities are embracing pedestrian and bicycle transportation," Beard said. "They see it as an alternative to driving. They see it as a way to get outside, and they recognize the health benefits of having more trails."
Jack Freiburg and Ken Rieffer said they wanted to express sentiments about Quincy's connection to larger communities through interstates and highways.
"Quincy has always been a bit isolated when it comes to other cities, especially before we had any interstates," Freiburg said. "If we are going to have any chance at growing as a city, it will be because we have a transportation system that helps people get in and out of our community."
Rieffer, who owns Riverside Smoke House and Grill in Quincy, wanted to talk about the proposed alignment of the new Quincy Memorial Bridge.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation said the new bridge is proposed to align with York Street, two blocks south of the current Maine Street alignment.
Rieffer said his business is on North Third Street and would benefit from the proposed alignment.
"We should see between 10,000 to 15,000 cars driving by every day," Rieffer said. "I am a big fan of the alignment."
Forum participants also preliminarily backed efforts to convert one-way streets to two-way streets in downtown Quincy, while opposing narrowing streets, implementing speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures.
Participants were not directly asked about if they support the proposed alignment nor were they asked about expanding Ill. 57 to a four-lane highway from Broadway to Interstate 172 near Fall Creek.
Lochmueller Group officials say both projects would be "taken into account as we move forward with this study."
An online survey is being conducted until Sept. 10 to allow those who couldn't attend the forum to provide input.
Consultants with the Lochmueller Group say they will use the input from the forum and from the survey to complete an analysis. Beard said a list of draft recommendations based on the analysis will be released in spring 2020.
"There will be some specific projects that will be identified," Beard said. "We will also have high, overarching changes that we will also recommend."
Ultimately, forum organizers were pleased by the responses and attendance numbers.
"What excites me the most about this crowd is it is a crowd of people that I don't see at every single meeting," Strong said. "There is a lot of diversity and variety of folks who have come out to give their opinion on transportation issues."
Quincy Director of Administrative Services Jeff Mays agreed.
"It is not your typical people that we have here tonight, but it is the right people," Mays said. "It is the kind of people you want to see at an event like this because it gives you a valid sample of a broad cross section of the community that whatever the results of tonight are, we should recognize as being likely representative of the how the rest of the community feels."