One of the common objections to an east side highway project for Bloomington Normal is a fear that it will divide the community and slow development and access. Opponents point to I-74 on the west side where development stalled after the interstate went through. But, Jerry Payonk, a consulting engineer in charge of an environmental impact study on the proposed project says the situation is very different from the west side where the only access point is at West Market Street. Payonk says on the east side there would be no wall.
"You would have interchanges at Fort Jesse, G.E, Empire, Ireland Grove Road, Cheney's Grove and 1-50. So you have a lot more access points so east west flow can occur a lot better. That's for the residents who want to get into and out of the urban core and it's also for farm vehicles."
Payonk also says barriers to development on the west side included the topography of the land.
"A lot of problems that occurred there on the west side weren't so much just the interstate although your only access point was route nine. You also had a lot of creeks, a lot of railroads, and you had a lay of the land that really didn't promote development without pump stations. The land kind of laid opposite to what would promote development."
On the east side of Bloomington Normal Payonk says the terrain is mostly flat with some barriers popping up on the north end of town. The environmental study for the possible project goes to federal officials next month. Construction on a $320 million road would be at least eight years away even if there were funding reserved today. Payonk says the road would not be built unless traffic congestion started to burden existing roads. Opponents could still kill the project by convincing area governments not to fund future engineering studies. A local match on the project with an alignment a mile east of Towanda Barnes Road could be in the neighborhood of $60 million.
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