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Giant Route 66 roadside sign coming to Normal to greet centennial visitors

This shows a mock-up of the planned giant sign going up on Pine Street in Normal. At its meeting Monday, May 15, 2023, the Normal Town Council OK'd the grant-funded project, tied to the Route 66 centennial planned for 2026.
Courtesy
/
Town of Normal
This image shows a mockup of a 43-foot-wide sign going up on Pine Street in Normal. At its meeting on Monday, May 15, 2023, the Normal Town Council OK'd the grant-funded project, tied to the Route 66 centennial planned for 2026.

The Normal Town Council on Monday approved final plans for a giant Route 66 sign, spelling out the town’s name at One Normal Plaza.

Work should begin next month on the 43-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall artwork. City Manager Pam Reece said it's part of a larger Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau project to boost tourism during the famous highway’s centennial in 2026.

Town leaders said after the meeting Monday, that even though the centennial is three years away, communities along the historic highway are preparing now.

"We're all looking at how to capitalize on Route 66," said Mercy Davison, Normal town planner. "It takes a long time for multiple units of government to prepare for a major national anniversary of something like Route 66."

Also at its meeting, the council approved a nearly $1.8 million contract with Rowe Construction for this year’s East College Avenue resurfacing project, and renewed its plan with the Municipal Insurance Cooperative Agency.

Council member Karyn Smith was absent Monday.

Route 66 stop planned for One Normal Plaza

The “Normal” sign will stand next to a large Route 66 shield. Town leaders think the installation will be a great photo-opp for travelers passing through Normal.

It also will create a gateway for Route 66 travelers entering the community from the northeast stretch of the road.

"I think Route 66 is one of the most historic parts of Normal, " said Davison.

One Normal Plaza is a multiuse development, but the sign will go on Normal-owned land, near the town's inline skate park. The location was selected because the Pine Street border, at the southeast corner of the development is part of Historic Route 66. Parking would be available in a town lot off Pine Street.

Opened in 1926, the Mother Road stretches from Chicago to California, and is still popular with tourists from all over the world.

East College roadwork

Work should begin next month on resurfacing part of East College Avenue, after the council unanimously approved the nearly $1.8 million contract with Rowe Construction.

Crews will focus on a busy stretch of College — from Blair Drive to Young Drive. Sidewalks along the stretch are getting upgrades, too.

The project is one of three major Normal street resurfacing projects planned this year.

Nearly $5 million is budgeted for the triple-road project, Normal Finance Director Andrew Huhn said after the meeting.

Insurance renewed

Also Monday, the council renewed the town’s annual contribution to MICA, paying about a half percent more than last year.

MICA includes about two dozen Illinois’ public entities, and includes insurance coverage on a partially self-funded basis. Normal’s been a consortium member for nearly 40 years.

The total cost for MICA’s annual program is more than $16 million. This year's cost is up $585,000, or 3.7%, over last year's amount. Normal’s portion of about $1.95 million represents less than 1% increase.

The town budgets for a 10% increase each year, which meant $2.1 million for the insurance renewal.

"Now that we're coming in under budget, that just provides us additional cushion as the fiscal year moves along, and those savings will remain in the general fund," said Reece.

Members of Youth on a Mission make a presentation at the Normal Town Council meeting, Monday, May 15, 2023, at city hall, in Uptown Station.
Michele Steinbacher
/
WGLT
Members of Youth on a Mission make a presentation at the Normal Town Council meeting, Monday, May 15, 2023, at city hall, in Uptown Station.

Youth propose initiatives

Four teens involved in town's youth advisory council, Youth on a Mission, presented a pair of talks at Monday’s meeting, based on research projects completed through the program.

Shloka Ravinuthala and Cana Brooks proposed the town add lactation stations, gender-neutral restrooms, and free menstrual products in town facilities. Shreya Nallamothu and Richa Shukla offered suggested improvements to the town’s 2012 sustainability plan, including a stronger approach to recycling and composting, as well as public transportation.

In other business, the council approved:

  • A site plan and final plat for the Apostolic Christian Church’s fellowship hall, to be constructed at 4408 E. Raab Road. 
  • $50,000 in Harmon Arts Grants to be distributed among 22 local groups.. 
  • Contracting a Normal Police Department-led summer program for teens at the Athlete Factory. The workout program will be for open to 100 youth, and funded through a violence prevention grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
  • A three-year renewal of an intergovernmental agreement tied to the Ecology Action Center's Tree Corps program. McLean County approved its involvement first, while Bloomington and the Bloomington-Normal Water Reclamation District (BNWRD) still need to renew their portion. If all four groups approve, the total contribution is about $50,000 annually. 
  • Mayor Chris Koos’ recommended appointments of Brian Peterson to the town’s Human Relations Commission, and former McLean County Board member Matthew Coates to the zoning board.

Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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