When it comes to building roadways and improving streets in the area, there’s one factor that always matters – money.
That’s when City of Effingham leaders pull out all the stops to find grants, Tax Increment Financing dollars, Motor Fuel Tax money or other means to help make the improvements needed that will draw in new businesses or help those that already exist.
“If an industrial business wants to come into Effingham and there is no infrastructure available at the site they want to go, we can use their business to help us in obtaining grants,” said Jeremy Heuerman, city engineer and planner. “If they are bringing in a lot of jobs, it helps us to obtain Community Development Assistance Program grants for roads and infrastructure.”
The city’s director of public works, Steve Miller, said Effingham has 110 miles of roads and 10 bridges, of which two are for pedestrians. It has 108 miles of water lines to contend with in the city limits. This doesn’t include miles of state highways 32, 33, 40 and 45; and Interstates 57 and 70 that also run through Effingham.
While money is vital, planning for these costly projects is just as important.
That’s where the city’s Comprehensive Plan helps guide officials over the long-term. It also tells the city where commercial development should be, where industrial and residential development should go.
Planning helps to preserve right of ways and corridors for future streets, and to be sure that property isn’t being taken up in areas where a street should go, Heuerman said, who has been in this position for five years.
“We look at what direction development is heading,” Heuerman said.
And the city leaders ask themselves a lot of questions. They prioritize projects.
Heuerman said they consider thing such as: Are we seeing a lot of development in the north end of town? Is there development in the Industrial Park or Technology Park? Or do we want to place roads in other areas? Where would we like to see the residential development happening?
“Based on these things and locations in the city limits and the extra-territorial district we decide where we want our infrastructure located,” he said.
“When Boos Metal Plant expanded, we used grant money to extend Thies Avenue,” said Heuerman. “When Beck’s seed company came in, because it was coming into Illinois, we received some grants to fund Pike Avenue to give them access to their site,” said Heuerman.
Most recently, when the news broke that Meijer was looking at Effingham, the planner’s wheels had already started to turn. It is proposed to be located at Ford Avenue and Oak Point Drive, next to Kohl’s.
“Meijer’s interest was a big deal when it came to planning new streets,” said Heuerman.
In three phases, the city planned and built a concrete street that would handle truck traffic to the proposed Meijer store. On the east side of the now lot for Meijer, North Raney transitions into a new paved road in the residential area, where trucks won’t be traveling, he said.
“Along North Raney Street, we filled in all the dips, widened the road, took out some trees,” said Heuerman. “It’s well over a $2 million project, which was paid for mostly with MFT funds.”
Miller said there has been an uptick in residential development recently near Raney Street where these improvements have been made.
“Once they saw the new road coming in we noticed, the lots in the Shenadoah Subdivision on Cliff View Drive started to sell,” said Heuerman.
Effingham’s Fayette Avenue expansion project has been on the State of Illinois’ list for several years.
“Since it is a state highway, we try to support the state, but until funding becomes available, nothing will ever happen,” said Heuerman. “It is a priority on their list. I believe it is getting closer. There’s no way to tell whether it is 2 years out or 10 years out. Getting the funding from the state is a difficult issue right now. It’s been in the plans for at least 10 years. Eventually, it will come.”
Preliminary plans are to widen Fayette to four lanes with a center turn lane. Multi-use path on the south end is also planned.
“There’s a definite need down there,” said Heuerman. “It will be done in phases with the first phase being from Illini Drive to Walnut. Evenutally, the state wants to go all the way through town on Route 40.”
South Fourth Street
In the comprehensive plan is the extension of South Fourth Street. Once approved, it would include the extension of Fourth Street from Jaycee to Airport Road. It would almost parallel Route 45 to the east, but it would open up a ton of development ground, by putting in another corridor in there.
“It would open up ground for residential, industrial or commercial in that area,” said Heuerman. “But, then again it is all based on funding. There’s no extra funding sources such as a TIF or a Business District in those areas, so without a large industrial project that we could use it as leverage for grants, funding will be difficult.”
The city and and county engineers worked together in developing alternate routes in order to help alleviate traffic congestion on Keller Drive. The city created Outer Belt West and the county improved 1550 Avenue West of Evergreen Avenue. Federal funds paid for both projects, Miller said.
Planners pay close attention to improving roads that lead to places such as a hospital, nursing homes, fire stations, to make sure there’s a good road system to each of these. They also make areas near schools have safe roads and pedestrian-friendly streets.
An example of that is a portion of Keller Drive on the west side recently was spruced up with 10-foot-wide multi-use path.
“North Raney didn’t have a sidewalk,” said Miller. “There is a large neighborhood there and it didn’t have access for pedestrians and bikes. We considered all of this when we designed the street. It will give these residents access to shopping and restaurants.”
Miller added that the city’s planning includes imporovements to areas around hospitals, nursing homes and other highly traveled places. As for the schools in the city, street improvements have been made to Southside, East Side, Junior High School and St. Anthony High School over the years.
Heuerman said one of the biggest things city workers do is maintaining the existing roads.
“We have a program in place depending on what funding types are available,” said Heuerman. “We have general fund programs for resurfacing streets, concreting new streets, improving drainage on the streets. Whatever the project, it is decided based on priority.”
Using the plan and maps, a selection of streets are lined up for a five-year span that the city will address.
“We have been knocking out some subdivisions that haven’t had some road resurfacing in many, many years,” said Heuerman.
“We do try to hit our arterials (main road way) as a priority based on the average daily traffic.”
Drainage and Storm Sewers
City engineers and planners have been doing some extensive research on the city’s storm sewer systems, mapping them, and designing them for the 1 percent chance of a flood in any given year, or what is also referred to as the 100 Year Flood.
“When we design a new road, we design it so the storm sewers can take on that capacity. We realize there are a ton of issues out there in our older subdivisions, but as money becomes available, we set priorities for the worst case scenarios first.”
Effingham’s Motor Fuel Tax funds gets filtered through the state to be appropriated.
“When we didn’t have a state budget there was a point when we were told we had to stop all construction, but thankfully a stop gap budget was passed, so construction continued without a break,” said Heuerman.
He added that the financial issues “fortunately has not really affected the grants that the city has received.”
“It would have stopped a lot of projects with not passing the budget. We apply for grants constantly. That’s how we get stuff done,” Heuerman said. “Hopefully the state can get something in place so we can all get back on schedule and get back on track.”
Effingham officials said they try to use concrete if the funding is available because it is low maintance. Asphalt is less expensive and has a nice surface, but requires maintanance. With concrete streets a city can go 50 years and never touch them, if it is done correctly, he said.
When it comes to County Roads, Effingham County Engineer Greg Koester said the work is mostly resurfacing existing roads and dealing with drainage.
“We have approximately 150 miles of county highways, and about 20 miles are paved, and the rest are oil and chipped,” said Koester. “With no more funding than we are eligible for we mainly do maintenance and resurfacing.”
But, one large improvement that Effingham County has seen is a new road on West Evergreen Avenue from Outer Belt West.
“It is a new county highway that we took over from the township,” said Koester. “One of the purposes of the county highway is to connect communities within the county,” said Koester. “If Lake Sara was an incorporated town, it would be the second largest populated town within the county. There’s been a lot of growth in the county between (the city) and the lake and areas near the lake.”
The county wanted a road that would take traffic directly to the lake and one that would pick up on the development between the lake and the city. The first phase was completed three years ago, about a 1.3 mile stretch, west of West Evergreen Avenue. The second planned phase, 1 mile long, would extend the proposed road, Koester said.
“The Moccasin Road has more than 4,000 cars a day out there,” said Koester. “We are making a lot of improvements out that direction because that’swhere we are seeing the most growth.”
Bridges in the county also get attention. There are 200 bridges in the county and township that require maintaining. Three bridges will be getting work this year.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151, ext. 138