FARMINGTON — More than $35 million will be spread across Illinois as communities receive federal funding for transportation improvements, and a large sum will go into Farmington’s streetscape project.
Cities benefiting from the federal grants include Peoria, which is to receive $286,530 for a sidewalk project near the intersection of War Memorial Drive and Allen Road/Charter Oak Road. In addition, Washington is to receive $56,000 for engineering work for improvements to the downtown square, and Germantown Hills will receive $24,000 for the development of a village square.
Farmington is getting $739,170 to improve the downtown historic business district as one of 53 projects selected for the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, which were announced Monday.
The ITEP grant will cover up to 80 percent of the total estimated cost of the projects, and with the addition of costs not covered by the grant, the city of Farmington will invest $224,871.
“Between (tax increment financing) monies and money we’ve been putting back, I’m hoping we won’t have to borrow any money,” City Administrator Rollen Wright said.
The streetscape project will make the business district compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. This will include replacing or updating business entrances, installing new sidewalks from storefronts to street parking and updating curb access at intersections.
Additionally, new street lights will be installed, and the city will foot the bill for add-ons like flag pole inserts and banner arms.
The streetscape project will affect the last couple blocks on East Fort Street and the entirety of its intersection with Main Street.
The city will begin the process of accepting bids for the project from contracting firms in fall 2018 and expects to break ground in spring 2019, Wright said.
For Farmington, this project has been in the works for about five years. City officials have worked closely with Keith Plavec of Maurer-Stutz, a local engineering firm, to be “shovel-ready” when the project was approved.
Becoming “shovel-ready” included the completion of an environmental survey review with a habitat investigation and passing an ordinance to approve a bank loan to cover the city’s 20 percent of the project if necessary.
The Farmington City Council submitted three applications for this grant, finally entering the winning application in January, he said.
“We worked for two years to get our ducks in a row to determine what kind of streetscape we wanted to create,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of preplanning for a streetscape program so that when we’re done we have something really attractive for our downtown business district.”
Wright said the district looks better than it has in 30 years as business owners move in and update their storefronts, but the crumbling sidewalks aren’t “giving the respect that we want to the customers coming in.”
“We need to make Farmington a destination for people from Peoria to come out for the day, and we’re still working on that,” Wright said.
Peoria applied for its ITEP grant last November, said City Engineer Bill Lewis. The process was competitive, with more than 218 applicants, "so we are fortunate to be selected," he said.
The project calls for sidewalks on both sides of War Memorial from the Allen/Charter Oak intersection as it goes roughly southeast to Cannes Drive, a distance of about 900 feet.
"There are several apartment complexes in the area, and this will allow for safer travel of pedestrian and transit users," Lewis said, noting there are CityLink bus stops along the route.
Doug Roelfs, CityLink's general manager, said he was pleased to hear that money for the sidewalk project was approved.
"Anytime we can get sidewalks along a major route like that it’s an improvement. It’s safer for our passengers," he said.
The city will be working with IDOT to select its design firm and plan the project, Lewis said. "There is a chance this work could take place late this fall, but could also be done in the spring of 2019."
Germantown Hills will receive $24,000 to work toward the development of a village square. However, Village President Mike Hinrichsen said the village requested $500,000 in its application.
The original plan, which was developed last summer, included new wider sidewalks, updated parks and connecting the village with a centralized village square, he said.
Village officials will meet with representatives from IDOT to determine what steps they will take moving forward, and they will look at other grants and investment possibilities, Hinrichsen said.
The grant for the downtown Washington square project will pay for initial engineering work on several improvements planned for the square.
The improvements include reconstruction of sidewalks including ADA compliance, marked crosswalks, bike racks, signage, kiosks and better lighting. Officials do not yet know, however, when the project will be done.
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