The Normal Town Council is moving forward with a feasibility study for a pedestrian railroad underpass in Uptown. The council has been working on developing a pedestrian pathway with the Illinois Department of Transportation since 2013. Last night they approved a contract with an engineering firm for the study.
Normal has budgeted 1.5 million dollars for the study, coming out of general tax dollars. City Manager Mark Peterson said the underpass option was a favorite among citizens, and will connect people to future expansion.
"The underpass is just a better alternative for moving, not only moving people from one side of the tracks to the other for passenger rail, but for other purposes as well, we have a whole development plan for the south side of the tracks, including a new public library, new housing, retail, commercial uses" said Peterson.
After a two-year engineering study and another year for more planning, construction should begin in 2019 and take two years.
Additional fiber optic television, phone and internet services are coming to Normal after the council granted a ten year contract wit Metronet. In the contract the Evansville, Indiana based company gives up to five percent of their earnings back to the Town of Normal as well as provide free services to schools and government buildings in their service range. Peterson said the deal gives the company access to the public right of way.
"Under this franchise agreement like other telecommunications providers whether it be Frontier or Comcast, they are going to need to operate in the public right of way and they're permitted to do that by Federal law, we however have the right to regulate how they do that, so they still need to get permits, they have to follow our rules, but we are giving them access to our rights of ways" said Peterson.
Metronet has a similar deal with Bloomington and is currently installing equipment there. The council also changed the town's ordinance on cannabis possession, fining people $350- $1,000 for carrying up to 10 grams of pot, originally 2.5 grams. The law change aligned Normal with state law regarding marijuana possession, and eliminated fines for people with a medical marijuana card.