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Normal council OKs actions related to Uptown pedestrian underpass project

rendering of the Uptown Normal underpass
This is a rendering of the underpass at the train station in Uptown Normal.

The Normal Town Council approved several measures Monday related to the pedestrian underpass project at the train station in Uptown.

Council members discussed and approved an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad Company concerning the “construction, maintenance, and use” of the railroad during the $27 million project.

Council member Kathleen Lorenz raised concerns about the language in the agreement, drawing attention to sections that stipulate Normal would be on the hook for any “significant cost” associated with repairing the railroad because of the underpass project.

Town officials described the language in the agreement as “boilerplate” and clarified they don’t foresee the railroad needing any repairs due to the underpass project.

“They’re casting a very wide net, as you would expect,” said city manager Pam Reece, referring to the language Union Pacific Railroad Company used in the contract.

The council also discussed and authorized an agreement with CIRBN LLC to create an alternative fiber optic cable route to serve town facilities during the underpass project in the amount of $49,258, and an agreement with AmerenIP to temporarily relocate a KV line during the project, which will cost $164,920.

Lorenz also asked if all of the costs associated with the underpass that were approved Monday were part of the initial cost planning and estimate for the project. Reece confirmed that they were.

Youth on a Mission

Also at the meeting, student members of Youth on a Mission, a project seeking to engage area high school students in municipal government, presented four projects recommending changes to the Town of Normal government and policies.

“Youth on a Mission is a youth council from the Town of Normal,” explained Paige Malloy, who serves as the program’s coordinator. “The students in this program spend about seven months working on a project that they care about. Back in October they spent a whole weekend with us here in the Uptown station coming up with ideas that they want to see in our community, researching those ideas, and then sharing those ideas with a lot of people.”

The students met with many elected officials, including council members, state Rep. Sharon Chung, and U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen.

The first three presentations directly addressed diversity, equity, and inclusion concerns, and were titled "Refreshing the Human Relations Commission," "Unity Through Public Display," and "Immigration Initiative."

The final presentation, given by Normal Community High School sophomores Vivaan Reddy and River Stokes-Dorsey, proposed creating a micro-community in Normal to address the housing crisis. Such a community would have small homes for individuals to live in, and provide them with workforce development and similar opportunities.

This presentation sparked the interest of Lorenz, who said Home Sweet Home Ministries is considering a similar solution in Bloomington to the currently growing homeless encampment there.

Lorenz spoke in favor of these kinds of solutions, adding that “it does take zoning changes… it takes some political will.”

The students mentioned that a micro-community called Hope Village is currently in development in Champaign-Urbana.

In other business, the the council:

  • Approved rezoning a property on Willow from a single-family home to multi-family units. This move comes amid broader conversations following the McLean County Regional Planning Commission’s release and presentation to the council of a Housing Recovery Plan that recommends zoning more multi-family units to address the housing shortage.
  • Authorized a purchase agreement for a parcel on Charlotte Drive in the amount of $10 for stormwater improvement. Town officials hope this will address some of the area residents’ concerns that have been brought to the council concerning flooding, though Reece noted the move does not address the “sump pump issue.”
Adeline Schultz is a correspondent at WGLT. She joined the station in 2024.