Summit Drive extension closer to a green light

Donelle Pardee Whiting

The Summit Drive extensioThe Summit Drive extension will likely occur — to the satisfaction of some and the dissatisfaction of others.

The East Peoria City Council approved a first reading for the extension Sept. 16. The final reading, which will approve the extension, will take place Tuesday.

East Peoria officials first submitted the Summit Drive extension proposal to Peoria/Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study in 2004, even though city leaders say the project has been in the works for three decades. Since 2004, the project cost has almost doubled.

The extension will link Summit — now a dead-end road — to Grange at the intersection of Centennial and on to Illinois Route 24.

The total cost of the project is $2,676,000. PPUATS will contribute $1.2 million in federal funds to the project. East Peoria city leaders will pay $998,000, and others will contribute $478,000.

That breakdown is: Washington Township, $50,000; Tazewell County, $125,000 (plus $100,000 in construction and engineering services); and Washington city, $178,000 (plus $125,000 for sewer construction).

In a memo, Steve Ferguson, director of public works, said, “Since it is new road construction, it was not felt that the entire cost should come from Motor Fuel Tax street paving funds that are normally spent on maintaining existing streets.”

Ferguson added that federal funds would be used first.

This memo replaced the previous version in the city council packet, which stated that $200,000 of the city’s portion would come from street repaving funds in 2009-10. Rather, the new resolution proposed

that East Peoria’s portion of the project be financed only with its general fund surplus account.

Council comments

Commissioner Dan Decker said he would support the project with some parameters.

“The only ways I would support it is if it would be beneficial to the city of East Peoria to improve the lives of the majority of the residents and help out the Sunnyland business district; and two, that it would not negatively effect anyone else — the other street maintenance throughout the city,” Decker said.

Supporters for the extension include the Sunnyland Business Association and Illinois Central College.

Although there are supporters, Decker acknowledged the people who live on Summit Drive who are against the extension. Some of those residents attended the council meeting.

“It is very important people in this community realize there will be some negative impacts. It will have negative impacts for the people who live on that street,” Decker said.

Commissioner Gary Densberger said he had initial reservations about the project. More specifically, he stressed, like Decker, that no street funds be used on the extension.

“Maintenance and development need to be separate budgets in my view,” Densberger said.

Densberger added that city officials need to look at creating a capital spending plan for projects, such as the Summit extension.

“I believe there’s a similar grant for Grange Road, whether it’s a water tower coming up, whatever the capital project may be, we need to take a look at what’s ... coming within at least the next five years,” Densberger said. “We need to look at our gaming funds and see what funds may be available and lay out some sort of road map instead of deal with each and every one as a crisis as this one has amounted to. We’re at the 11th hour on this plan because we need to give PPUATS (Peoria Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study) an answer.”

Commissioner Jeffers said he appreciates the concern of residents about speeders along Summit. Jeffers said police chief Ed Papis and “crew” will make sure speed will not be an issue. That comment was met with some slight laughter from audience members.

“I take the view of the good of the city and the area, I support (the extension),” Jeffers said.

Jeffers and Densberger said they encourage a TIF or extension of an enterprise zone in the Sunnyland area.

All commissioners agreed that Sunnyland “needs a shot in the arm,” and they anticipate the Summit extension may provide the needed “shot.”

“While it won’t be overnight, I think over time, there will be development spurred because of this project ... It’s good for East Peoria. It’s good for the area,” commissioner Mike Unes said.

Unes said he disagrees with other council members pertaining to funding of the project.

Unes agreed with the original wording of the resolution, which was axed. That resolution included $200,000 being used on the extension from the city’s street repaving funds.

“Nobody wants to drain the street fund. We all acknowledge there are streets in need of repair and we’re going to address those ... But when you’re talking about a $1 million project — and that’s the city’s portion — and we are talking about an existing road ... when you repave an existing road, it comes from the street fund,” Unes said. “I am having a hard time understanding how we can do a $1 million street project and not use a dime of it from our street fund.”

In response to other commissioner’s comments about planning for the future, Unes said, “The best way to plan for the future is to continue to have responsible development that will spur economic development.”

“We’re going to have one heck of a debate during budget time,” Mingus said.

Residents speak

Jesse Shelton, who lives at 211 Summit Drive, said he is concerned that once the road is extended, his property value will decrease.

Mingus told him city staff could ask a realtor and get back with him.

Tommy Powers, 300 N. Summit, said he was disappointed in the council’s decision.

Powers, who bought a home along Summit three years ago, said he would not have had he known the street was going to be extended. He added he purchased his home specifically because it was on a dead-end street.

“It’s going to be quite a bit of noise. All of these houses are built with bedrooms on the front,” Powers said.

Pat Knight, who has lived at 302 N. Summit with her husband, John, for 34 years, said they are quiet country people who are not looking forward to the extension. Pat said they may sell their home on Summit and move to their farm in Missouri.

“It will be next to impossible to get out of my driveway,” Knight said.

Mingus said tabs need to be kept on the Summit driveway situation. Decker added that the city will do whatever it can to help the residents along Summit.

There are 13 homes on Summit and one church, Pat said, adding that most of the residents who live there are retirees.

In other news, the city council approved the master developer agreement with Cullinan Properties Ltd. for the West Washington Street Tax Increment Financing District.

“This has been a long time coming. The lot across the street has been there for a long time, and it’s exciting to get something on paper and get going with it. Hopefully, soon we’ll start to see some development over there,” Decker said.

Commissioner Gary Densberger said it is important to note that although Cullinan is the master developer, other developers are welcome to participate in the plans.

“In fact, I would encourage other developers (to participate),” Mayor Dave Mingus said.