Mayor On Underpass: 'Still A Lot Of Moving Pieces' | WGLT

Mayor On Underpass: 'Still A Lot Of Moving Pieces'

Aug 16, 2016

Credit Ralph Weisheit

Mayor of Normal Chris Koos said there are "still a lot of moving pieces" when it comes to determining whether or not a railroad pedestrian underpass will be constructed in the Uptown district.

During Sound Ideas, Koos discussed the $1.5 million feasibility study agreement council members funded at Monday night's regular meeting.

The deal with WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff calls for the firm to broker a deal on a feasibility study, which would entail all pre-construction planning, including environmental studies. The entire planning period could take as long as three years, in two separate phases. If approved, construction of the underpass might not be complete until 2021.

Koos said the council will soon consider a temporary at-grade crossing. He said this would fulfill the wishes of the railroad, Amtrak and federal regulators.

"I don't think it causes them any trouble at all, if we have a temporary at-grade crossing that will work to solve that issue," Koos said. "It's important to point out that this phase one study we're doing would be required for virtually anything we want to do in that area, especially if we're going after federal funds."

The town has previously signaled a desire to acquire federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funds to defray the cost of the underpass, which is estimated to exceed $10 million. Koos said the acquisition of TIGER funds has less to do with a possible five-year timeframe than it does presidential politics.

"I'm not quite sure where (Republican Presidential nominee Donald) Trump stands in terms of infrastructure. It's very clear (Democratic nominee) Hillary Clinton has a strong desire to push through infrastructure spending," Koos said.

Koos added, even if the council decides not to go with the underpass option after reviewing the feasibility study, the $1.5 million is still money well-spent.

"They're (WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff) required in these phase one studies to consider multiple alternatives, and it may come back that they say, 'no, we don't think the underpass is the best solution to the problem'," he added. Koos said if  council members reach such a decision, they shouldn't be open to criticism for what would amount to delaying construction of an overpass by two years.

"The overpass that was originally designed wouldn't have served the general public either. It was designed to move Amtrak patrons from one side of the tracks to another and would not have been a viable option under Uptown 2.0," Koos said. Whether an underpass or overpass is ultimately built, it would move all pedestrians from one side of the tracks to another, not just train passengers.