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Lorenz Hesitant But Hopeful On Uptown Underpass

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Farr Associates/Town of Normal
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Normal Town Council member Kathleen Lorenz keeps expressing reservations about a $24 million Uptown underpass project and yet keeps voting for it over a period of years. She said during a WGLT Sound Ideas interview that she is taking a leap of faith.

"I knew we couldn't turn down the gift of the federal grant without risking damage to the community's reputation, coupled with the fact at least we knew there would be good construction jobs coming out of this," said Lorenz.

Lorenz said her vote is a nervous one because she does not believe the public has embraced the project.

The project has been under discussion for about a decade. There have been multiple council votes on it at various stages. Voters have not punished town leaders who have supported the underpass.

Yet Lorenz thinks the project lacks legitimacy in the public eye. She said she believed a 2017 study that found the underpass was the preferred option to get passengers and the public across the train tracks at Uptown Station had weak analysis. At that time, she also voted to spend money on engineering work.

Lorenz said the town needs to change public perception of that piece of town infrastructure.

"Community engagement both on what we can do to achieve the potential and the value of the project, and secondly council being out there in the community communicating on this. This is a marathon of a project. The communications need to be a marathon, too," said Lorenz.

Lorenz said she is swayed by the argument the underpass will create economic development on the south side of the train tracks in Uptown, adding the town also needs to be hawkish in containing costs that will be paid for by the $1.7 million local match to the roughly $22 million in federal and state grants.

The current timeline for the project is for completion in early 2025.

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