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Mayor Koos: Underpass Likely In Next Year’s Budget

WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff
The Normal Town Council held a special work session Monday to discuss progress on the long-planned $22.7 million Uptown Normal underpass project.

The Town of Normal is poised to move ahead in the next budget year with the long-debated underpass project in Uptown. The project first came up 12 years ago and it will be another two or three before it's done.

For years, the big stumbling block was the nearly $23 million price tag. That may be solved now. Mayor Chris Koos said that after all state and federal grants are tallied up, the town will only have to find $1.69 million to move ahead.

"You know, a lot of times the minimum public match on projects like this is 20% local. And we're about 7% local match. It's an incredibly good opportunity," said Koos, adding the town can find that amount of money in the General Fund and do the project pay-as-you-go. He said that's also an amount town council members can accept.

"Generally, the threshold in council conversations was $3 million or below, people would be comfortable doing something," Koos said Tuesday on WGLT's Sound Ideas.

Koos does not think the long lingering nature of the project has degraded public perception of it. He said there have always been those who really like it and those who don't.

Koos also said there may still be public input on the final design elements. He said he does not think there will be problems fitting in switchbacks that are shallow enough to allow an easy return to street level from the underpass.

"On the north side of the tracks I would not say steep because everything has to be ADA accessible. There are standards for ADA in terms of the pitch of a ramp including the switchbacks," said Koos.

The south side of the tracks has even more room to work with, and fitting in a low ramp there will not be a challenge, said Koos.

The mayor said chatter from those who oppose the project about diverting earmarked money to other purposes such as roads is misinformed because the grants are very specifically for an underpass.

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