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$1.7 trillion federal spending plan includes earmarks for McLean County projects

Architect’s rendering showcasing the front exterior of the new Mennonite Lab Building expansion at Illinois State University.
Illinois State University
Architect’s rendering showcasing the front exterior of the new Mennonite Lab Building expansion at Illinois State University.

The new $1.7 trillion federal spending plan just signed into law includes millions in earmarks for projects in McLean County, including Illinois State University’s nursing college, a new pedestrian and bike path along West College Avenue, and a sewer project in Heyworth.

Here’s a look at where the money is going:

$3.5 million to the Town of Normal for the West College Avenue project. That includes extension of a multi-use path for pedestrians and bikes, and repairs to West College Avenue from White Oak Road all the way west to Rivian Motorway, where the Rivian plant is located.

The town’s Phase 1 environmental preliminary engineering study for the project already has been approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation, said Ryan Otto, director of engineering and public works. Phase 2 design work is underway.

The total cost of the West College Avenue project is expected to be around $9.5 million.

a photo of Ryan Otto
Town of Normal
Normal Director of Engineering and Public Works Ryan Otto

$520,000 to the Town of Normal to cover around 80% of the cost of an infrastructure and planning study for the town’s Northwest Economic Growth Area. The study will look at what infrastructure (like roads, sewer and water) would be needed to accommodate and attract and economic drivers and growth in northwest Normal that has access to three interstates and other major roads, said Otto.

“The study would also look at potential opportunities because of the presence of the Norfolk Southern rail line through the area, and any businesses that may need rail access as well,” he said.

The study also could prove useful if the Town of Normal pursues a new industrial park, which has been identified as a community need by economic development officials. The market for industrial and warehouse space in Bloomington-Normal is extremely tight.

“It could very definitely make the case for an industrial park,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos.

Another factor leading to the study is interest from the Village of Hudson in potentially tapping onto the municipal sewer system that Normal residents use. Hudson is having conversations with the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District about that possibility, Koos said.

The study is expected to take about 12-18 months to complete, Otto said.

$2 million to Illinois State University toward construction of its expanded nursing simulation lab, for the Mennonite College of Nursing.

The new space will be built around the existing Mennonite Lab Building that was lifted and pivoted 90 degrees this past summer to prepare for new construction. Located just north of the Bone Student Center parking lot along Locust Street, the expansion will offer additional simulation and health assessment spaces. ISU says the college will be able to enroll about 400 more students — an additional 100 students each year for the next four years — when the facility opens.

The expanded lab will cost $18 million and is expected to open in 2024. Private fundraising is underway to support the project.

$1.6 million for a sanitary sewer inflow and infiltration reduction project in Heyworth, a community of about 2,800 located south of Bloomington. The money will rehab Heyworth’s sewer collection system though lining, grouting, and replacement to prevent groundwater and surface waters from entering the system and overloading pump stations and treatment operations.

“We’ve had some major rain events over the past five years or so. When we’ve had those really bad events, it’s pretty significant. Millions of gallons of water entering the system when it really shouldn’t,” said Heyworth village administrator Geoff Dodds. "I’d say it’s 100,000 gallons or more during a significant rainfall.”

All that excess water strains the system, requires more electricity usage, and overflows lagoons.

“And if it’s really bad, it can back up into homes, because the sewer is so full with clear water rather than the sewage it should have, it’s backing up into homes because it has nowhere else to go,” Dodds said.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.