Fayette Avenue project closer to reality with funding

Traffic waits at a red light on Fayette Avenue near Maple Street where some of the proposed Phase 1 reconstruction is planned.

EFFINGHAM — A project that has been discussed for years might actually happen with the state funds packaged for what is being called “Rebuild Illinois.”

Effingham’s long-awaited Fayette Avenue reconstruction has been talked about for at least a decade. Recently, the state announced funds to the tune of $61.2 million will be doled out for US 40/45/Illinois 33/Fayette Avenue project.

Effingham Mayor Mike Schutzbach said the project has been long awaited.

“The city has been desiring the expansion of Fayette Avenue for many years because of how narrow that roadway is,” said Schutzbach. “Over the years the city has worked with the state. Everyone knows of the importance of widening it for safety reasons.”

While officials continue to cross fingers that the funds will be allocated soon and the project will come to fruition, Schutzbach said he’s hopeful the project will come in the “very near future.”

Greg Jamerson, program development engineer with Illinois Department of Transportation, said this week that there’s no timeline yet, but the project is getting closer to becoming reality.

“We are still working with the governor’s office on the ‘Rebuild Illinois’ program,” said Jamerson. “We don’t have a schedule yet.”

IDOT has plans to expand Fayette Avenue from its current four-10 foot wide lanes to a proposed five-12 foot wide lanes. Jamerson added that the majority of the widening will be on the south side of the road.

“We’ve been working on this for quite a long time,” said Jamerson. “We’ve had at least a half dozen meetings with any stakeholders along that route. There will be some impacts, but we are still looking at what that will be. We are still analyzing how severe the impacts will be.”

Schutzbach said this is an IDOT project, so the city will have minimal involvement. Over the past several years meetings have been held by IDOT with property owners.

“We’ve waited a long time for this,” said Schutzbach. “We’re anxious to get it going. We indeed hope it is in the very near future.”

The Businesses

While the south side of Fayette Avenue is expected to be most affected, over the years, business owners have been meeting with IDOT officials about the reconstruction plans.

Patti Chwasczinski, executor and half-owner of Guffey’s Quality Cleaners and Tuxedo Rental 1103 West Fayette, said the business has been at this location since 1958. But it has been in Effingham for more than 70 years.

“About 25 or 30 years ago, this was supposed to come through, but it never did,” said Chwasczinski. “I will believe it when I see it. Typically, the southern part of Illinois doesn’t get what they need in road work.”

Chwasczinski said she recalled an earlier expansion when the street went from two lanes to four lanes.

“And my parents, Laurel and Marjorie Guffey, lost two drive up window spaces and nine parking spaces in that project,” said Chwasczinski. “This project will land at our front door.”

Chip Andes, owner and pharmacist at Andes Health Mart, at 805 West Fayette, said IDOT has been meeting with business owners for approximately 15 years, he estimated.

“This building (Andes Health Mart) was set back away from the road, thinking that this could someday come,” said Andes. “It’s certainly going to be an inconveince for me and I’ll loose front of the store parking, from what had been said in those earlier meetings.”

Andes said he expects the widening of the road will end up about 5 to 8 yards from his front door, so there will no longer be front parking for his customers.

The Funds

Gov. J.B. Pritzker recently unveiled a $45 billion statewide infrastructure plan, which will take place over a six year span that will put large investments in roads, bridges, and railways, plus universities, veterans homes, early childhood centers and a state crime lab, according to Capitol News Illinois.

House Bill 62 includes funding for billions of dollars worth of work, specifically $11 billion for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s multi-year plan. Senate Bill 1939 doubles the motor fuel tax from 19 to 38 cents, which is expected to generate $1.3 billion annually in new revenue. Increased fees in titles and registration fees will also contribute to that new money. Capitol News reported that the title and registration fee increases could generate $529 million in new annual state revenue.

The city and county

Effingham’s Director of Public Works Jeremy Heuerman said some information has funneled to the city, but no timelines have been announced. The Fayette Avenue project is expected to take many years and be done in two phases.

The first phase is expected to be from Illini Drive to Banker Street and the second, from Banker Street to Willow Avenue.

Besides widening the lanes to 12-foot and adding a 12-foot center lane, also proposed is a 10-foot wide multi-use path, similar to what was incorporated on Keller Drive, he said.

“Once the funds are appropriated and released, IDOT will begin the acquisition of right-of-way for the project,” said Heuerman. “The final design and construction would then follow.”

Funds for this project are to come from Pritzker’s capital improvement bill, which takes in a variety of sources: increase in the gas tax, license plate fees, vehicle registration fees, cigarette tax, gambling and sports betting taxes.

Greg Koester, Effingham County engineer said the anticipated new revenue will also help with maintenance of township and county road. There are about 900 miles of county and township roads in Effingham County.

Funds could also be used for the proposed Effingham County Memorial Airport runway.

The county is looking to extend the primary runway from 5,100 to 6,000 feet to accommodate larger aircraft.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151, ext. 138

IDOT Projects Planned

According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, highway projects of interest for the Effingham area that are tentatively scheduled in the Rebuild Illinois program, during the FY 2020‑2025 time frame include:

• Interstate 70 from abandoned railroad bridge at Altamont to 0.8 mile east of Altamont interchange in Effingham County. Reconstruction of 1 mile, bridge superstructure replacement, bridge removal and bridge raising at a cost of $14 million.

• Interstate 70 1 mile east of the Interstate 57 interchange to the Cumberland County line in Effingham County. Reconstruction for 7.8 miles (including ramp repair), bridge superstructure rehabilitation, bridge deck repairs, bridge repair, culvert rehabilitation and culvert repair at a cost of $51.6 million.

• US 40/45/Illinois 33/Fayette Avenue from west of Raney Street to east of Willow Street in Effingham. Additional lanes and paving for 1.2 miles, curb and gutter, a new storm sewer, ADA improvements, engineering for contract plans, land acquisition and utility adjustments at a cost of $61.2 million.

• US 40 from Salt Creek to 1500th Avenue east of Teutopolis. Resurfacing on 3.4 miles and ADA improvements at a cost of $3 million.

• US 45 from south of the Interstate 57/70 ramp (Eastbound) to US 40 in Effingham. Resurfacing on 1.6 miles, ADA improvements and land acquisition at a cost of $1.9 million.

• US 45 from Jaycee Avenue to 0.2 mile south of Illinois 37 in Effingham. Resurfacing on 4.8 miles at a cost of $5.7 million.

-- Source: Illinois Department of Transportation

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