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Mayor Koos Defends Trail Extension Expenditure

Sprague's service station exterior
New bicycle trail will run from Beech and Pine to the existing trail head at Towanda and Shelbourne as part of the historic Route 66 corridor.

Over the years, conservative members of the Normal Town Council and McLean County Board often have resisted bicycle trail extensions presented for approval. They have tended to frame the issue as parks versus roads.

Conservatives claimed the money should go to basic road repairs. That also was the case this week as the council green-lighted a trail extension along the historic Route 66 heritage corridor.

During an interview on WGLT's Sound Ideas, Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he resists the either-or framing.

"I think we have to spend money on roads and I think we have to spend money on trail infrastructure, and probably the impetus that made us move forward on this is the fact we got a $150,000 grant from the state of Illinois to accomplish this," said Koos.

That's about a third of the cost. The town had put the stretch of trail from the intersection of Pine and Beech streets eastward, around a detention basin, and north to Towanda Avenue and Shelbourne Street and the existing trail head leading to the Village of Towanda up for bid in 2018. The bid came in too high and the project languished until the grant came. 

Koos said bicycle pedestrian trails are a quality-of-life amenity that get a lot of local use in addition to some tourism value on the Route 66 trail.

He said the Route 66 bike trail plan was developed almost a decade ago. Other entities such as the county, the Village of Towanda, and the state participated in drafting the plan.

The summer road repair program for the Town of Normal includes resurfacing some high-traffic sections of pavement on Raab Road and Gregory Street. But it also targets less-traveled stretches on Normal Avenue, Bowles Street, and North Fell Avenue.  Koos said it's proper to pick those streets instead of higher volume roads.

"They've deteriorated to the point that if we don't do a resurface on them, the subgrade could deteriorate further and the cost rise exponentially. They are just due to be resurfacted," said Koos.

The town will spend nearly $2 million on those asphalt overlays, using motor fuel tax money.

Koos said a new road rating system adopted by the town assesses pavement quality every year to help set construction priorities. It is the same evaluation tool used by the City of Bloomington.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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