By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Area transportation advocates and city employees Tuesday met with Iowa and Illinois Department of Transportation staff to discuss the projects affecting the Gateway area.
The semi-annual meetings between locals and District 6 DOT employees give the people working at the local level an update on the DOT’s direction with major transportation projects while simultaneously giving the state workers insight into the projects that are most important to local advocates.
The important projects discussed on Tuesday included the U.S. 30/67 Liberty Avenue project, which District 6 Engineer Jim Schnoebelen said would be complete by July 1. The contractors continue to do work through the winter to complete it.
“In terms of quantities, they're about 50 percent done, but I think it's the easy 50 percent,” Schnoebelen said.
The city intends to demolish two of the buildings that still stand in the area between Camanche and Liberty avenues — those buildings being a former laundromat and a vacant car wash building. The city agreed to put the demolition out for bid with the properties scheduled to be gone by mid-April.
Local advocates asked what the protocol would be for the city purchasing land from the DOT once the project was complete.
“Typically what we would do is finish the project just to make sure we have the right of way set where we need to and then we would begin that process,” Schnoebelen said.
The appraisal through disposal process can take up to a year, but could be accelerated in this case.
State law requires the property must first be offered to the owner from which it came. Then unless the city intends to put the land to public purpose, such as a park or other public space, it would be subject to public bid auction.
The property also will have to be re-platted before it can be sold.
Iowa U.S. 30 Coalition Chairwoman Edith Pfeffer suggested putting an “urban jungle” in some of the space in order to increase the city's green initiatives.
“I think that’s what we really should do on the ADM side,” Pfeffer said.
The group also discussed the location design and environmental impact study for U.S. 30 from Fulton to Rock Falls.
“We don't want to let this project be cold in the grave. We really don't,” Illinois U.S. 30 Coalition Chairwoman Barb Suehl-Janis said. “We want to keep this in front of our legislators.”
The conundrum Suehl-Janis and other advocates face is whether to continue to seek funding if they don't know the future of the project or how much funding is needed to ensure the project is completed.
Masood Ahmad, the acting studies and plan engineer for the Illinois DOT, said he believed they could continue on their mission for funding. The discussion ended with the 19th Avenue North extension project.
Fulton City Administrator Randy Balk asked what the anticipated traffic increase will be across the Iowa 136 bridge once the extension is complete. He was told the residential and truck traffic was not expected to substantially increase because most would still choose to use U.S. 30.