The timing is right for Summit Drive extension

Times-Reporter editorial board

It is hard to justify the Summit Drive extension, about a 1.5 mile stretch of road, when so many other roads in East Peoria need desperate repair.

But one thing East Peoria residents have to realize is that the Summit Drive extension has been in the works for at least two decades.

Now, East Peoria city leaders have a unique opportunity with a $1.2 million grant from the Peoria/Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study. This is half of the project’s cost.

The other half of the project would be funded by Washington (20 percent); Washington Township (3 percent), Tazewell County (12 percent) and East Peoria (66 percent).

If extended, Summit Road would connect from Illinois Route 8/Washington Road in Sunnyland to Centennial Drive and U.S. Route 24 in Washington.

Unfortunately, the $1.2 million grant can only be used for the Summit Drive extension. Otherwise it might be arguable to use that money elsewhere in the city — perhaps to help open Hill Road or fix other damaged streets.

One of the large reasons the timing is right for the Summit Drive extension is because the Illinois Department of Transportation is scheduled to revamp Route 8 going through Sunnyland.

If Route 8 was not being revamped, we would have argued that it would not be a good idea to extend Summit Drive. With the extension, it is likely there will be more traffic coming through Sunnyland to access Centennial or Route 24.

With the Route 8 narrowing to one lane near Briargate Drive, the added traffic would have created more congestion. But since the Route 8 project has a 2009 bid letting, it seems the timing is right to do Summit now. If it is not done now, East Peoria leaders said they would have to wait another 20 years before they could reapply for the grant money again.

Another reason the Summit Drive extension is a good idea, besides the obvious ones of quicker response times for the fire department and better access, is how it could revitalize Sunnyland.

The Summit Drive extension would provide a direct route to the Sunnyland Plaza, an area that desperately needs tenants.

Summit Drive is a dividing line between East Peoria and Washington. Unfortunately, the dividing line is not a good one; it keeps East Peoria landlocked from the major highway and closes an entry into that portion of the community.

City commissioner Dan Decker has a good idea to help pay for the Summit Drive extension. He said city leaders should tap into the reserve fund. It may take city officials a couple of years to pay back the money, but that is a far cry from 20 years when Summit Drive can be thought of again.