The Town of Normal Council is expected to sign off on an option for pedestrians and people on bikes to traverse railroad tracks bisecting Uptown.
The council, staff, and residents have been discussing an underpass option since before council members approved the Uptown 2.o plan in Nov. 2015. Consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff recommended a robust underpass connection between Uptown and what some call Uptown South. The cost is estimated at around $13 million.
In our series of Sound Ideas interviews with newly elected municipal officials, Town Council member Chemberly Cummings said new information could change her mind, but she's been an underpass supporter for a while.
"One thing I stated when I was on the campaign trial, is that I lean more toward the underpass," said Cummings. Cummings was elected April 4.
She said the underpass could be more cost effective in the long run. She used the anaology of buying a higher quality car over a cheaper model. The better model will cost more upfront, but save money later on maintenance.
WSP Parson Brinkeroff's recommendation focused on safety, connectivity, and economic development. It is also the most expensive recommendation. Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos has said he's willing to wait as long as it takes for federal dollars to be secured for the project. Cummings is also interested in finding sources other than local dollars.
"It would be nice if we could find other opportunities or other ways to fund. That would be a top priority," said Cummings. "I think any town or city would do that first before jumping in and saying we're going to foot the bill."
Twenty-nine out of 41 public comments, strongly supported the underpass alterative recommended in the report by the consultant. Five comments were against the recommended underpass option due to concerns about the cost. Three comments expressed support for an overpass alternative. The remaining comments, or questions, did not explicitly state a preferred alternative.
The Town Council will consider the underpass option at their meeting Monday at 7 PM.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.