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As Congress Mulls Infrastructure Bill, Mayor Mwilambwe Pushes For Hamilton Road Funding

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe is about two weeks into his new job.
Emily Bollinger
Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe is about two weeks into his new job.

The federal infrastructure bill being considered in Washington might be what finally gets a long-awaited south Bloomington road project to the finish line.

Congress and the Biden administration are debating the size and scope of the package. President Biden has called for a $2.3 trillion bill. Republicans prefer a smaller package.

Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said he emphasized the importance of infrastructure funding during his first sit-down meetings with U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood, the two Republicans who represent Bloomington-Normal.

“One of the things the city is heavily focused on is the Hamilton Road project, which has been on the radar for, wow, a good 20 years or so. So we’re hoping this year will be the year we’ll get funding for that project, which is very important for us,” Mwilambwe said on WGLT’s Sound Ideas.

Connecting Hamilton Road between Commerce and Bunn will be the final step in finishing a continuous east-west corridor south of Veterans Parkway between Hershey Road and the Fox Creek subdivision.

The city is seeking about $5.4 million from the federal government, about 70% of the project cost. The city itself would kick in $2.3 million.

Meanwhile, the Bloomington City Council is expecting to learn more at Monday’s meeting about its options for spending about $14 million in incoming federal COVID relief money.

“That’s what I’m hoping to hear—that there’s quite a bit of flexibility for us to spend that money. I know each and every community has been impacted in a different way. So the more flexible it is for us to be able to address the needs specific to our community, the better it’s going to be.”

Those rules and regulations are starting to take shape. The state of Illinois learned this week, for example, that its plans to use a bulk of its federal money to pay off debt may not fly with the feds.

The City of Bloomington earmarked previous federal COVID relief money for small-business assistance and direct payments to residents.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.