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Trail advocate welcomes Route 9 upgrades allowing for bikes and pedestrians

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) set to install new bike lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks and traffic signals along Route 9 in Bloomington.
WGLT file photo
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is set to install new bike lanes, crosswalks, sidewalks and traffic signals along Route 9 in Bloomington.

An advocate for more bike and pedestrian travel in Bloomington-Normal is cheering plans to add bike lanes, crosswalks, and other accommodations along a busy roadway in Bloomington.

Patrick Dullard is president of Friends of the Constitution Trail. He said adding bike and pedestrian access along Empire Street (Illinois Route 9), especially near Veterans Parkway, will make the highway safer and more accessible.

“This side path (that will run parallel to Route 9) will at least bring us closer to having people not walking on the road or in the median, which is a great benefit,” Dullard said.

Dullard said some people still walk or bike to nearby Eastland Mall and other stores in the area — whether it's safe or not. He said a dedicated lane will likely be helpful to people who rely on a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation.

“A lot of cyclists won’t use a road like Route 9 because there isn’t a bike lane or anything like that” Dullard said. “It’s the main east-west road through town. Why shouldn’t it be available for all users instead of just cars?”

Some parts of Route 9 would get a dedicated bike lane under the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) proposal. In some parts, bikes would have to share a lane with cars and trucks.

Dullard acknowledged it will take public education to prepare drivers and cyclists to safely share the road.

IDOT will hold a public information meeting to discuss the project from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bloomington Junior High School.

The project to rehab the close to 7.5 miles of highway and accommodate bike and pedestrian travel is expected to cost $15.2 million for three of the first five phases through 2027. Eighty percent of the cost will be paid by the federal government; the rest would come from state funds.

Wooden stand in garden
Eric Stock
A Little Free Library at the Atwood Wayside Herb Garden in recently destroyed by a fire.

Little libraries destroyed

On another topic, Dullard called it "sad and disappointing" that at least two Little Free Libraries along Constitution Trail were recently destroyed by fire. Dullard said he hopes the incidents were just pranks and not something more sinister.

He doesn't think the trail needs more security, adding getting more bikers and walkers on the trail could prevent vandalism. Constitution Trail covers close to 45 miles in Bloomington-Normal.

“The fact that we are out riding and walking more and in the neighborhood actually sends a message to people that would want to burglarize or do other things (think), 'I may get noticed.' So I'm going to encourage people to get out (on the trail) more."

A memorial bench that's next to one of the destroyed libraries on Vernon Avenue also damaged last week. The family is offering a cash reward for information leading to an arrest, and helping to raise money to replace that library and others that have been vandalized.

Another Little Free Library along the trail north of Shelbourne Drive was destroyed on two separate occasions last year.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.