DECATUR-- Nearly three years to the day it began, the Decatur City Council voted to move the downtown streetscape project into its final phase.
With a vote of 5-1 the council approved a $1.9 million grant from the Department of Transportation to help fund the streetscape project along North Franklin Street. The council also approved the usage of $600,000 of the city’s portion of the state motor fuel tax to offset the remaining cost.
“The state has the Illinois Transportation Grant Program that will be used for lighting, and some of the sidewalk and pavement improvements that can’t be used for repaving of the roads but can be used for what is called ‘streetscape and designed. The motor fuel tax will go towards offsetting the remaining cost of the project. These grants are never 100% funded and oftentimes what cities will do is use their motor fuel tax to offset the rest of the cost,” City Manager Ryan McCrady said. “Basically what we are getting is $2 million worth of work for $600,000.”
The renovation project will match Franklin Street with the rest of downtown that underwent a similar renovation. It will add new sidewalks, concrete planter boxes, foliage, and new street lamps. “Everyone I’ve spoken to has been really happy about the project,” Councilman Larry Foster added. “I am happy with it as well, I think it’s been a worthwhile investment and I’m looking forward with getting the final phase underway.”
Not all on the council approve, Pat McDaniel says he would have liked to see the $600,000 of motor fuel tax money put towards other things, such as repaving the roads, “I just don’t think it’s feasible to spend all this money on a street that basically is a thoroughfare. There is only one business that has an entrance on Franklin Street and that’s the post office.”
McDaniel went on to say he wasn’t against using money on the renovations, as he thinks they are a good investment, but just thinks it could have been allocated better, “Some trees and a nice sidewalk aren’t going to bring more foot traffic to Franklin Street, it’s a busy thoroughfare with not much business. I’m not against advancement; I just think the money could have been used elsewhere.” McDaniel was the lone ‘no’ vote on both motions.
McCrady says the work will be bid out by the state in late April and we could start seeing work on the project in July, “We really wanted to get the project underway sooner so that more work could be done before the Decatur Celebration in August, but we will have to put the work on hold and have it wrap up by the early part of 2015.” McCrady says the work before the Celebration will be minor, with a majority of the heavy construction happening after. “When we started this project in 2011 we wanted to have it done in three years and we are almost on schedule. Hopefully the weather will hold up and we can finish the Franklin Street renovation project in early spring 2015.”
In total the Franklin Street streetscape project will cost just north of $1.9 million. $1.4 million will come through the federal grant, $600,000 will come from the city’s portion of the motor fuel tax, and $100,000 will come from a bond that was used to help complete the other parts of the downtown renovation.
In other business the city council approved funding for evidence lab equipment for the new Decatur Police Department Facility and heard an update on the project to bring a new County market store to the intersection of Illinois 48 and Grand Avenue. Demolition and site remediation has been completed for the new store with construction set to begin in the spring. The site is also expected to house a new gas station and drive through coffee operation. The project is expected to continue the large-scale revitalization currently underway in the area when joined with the multimillion-dollar renovation of MacArthur High School just west of the store. Visitors to the area will also notice modern Walgreens and Speed Lube facilities and the Fairview Plaza Kroger store was renovated in recent years.