Herald-Whig View

U-turn on Ill. 57 a welcome development for region

Posted: Nov. 24, 2019 12:01 am

TO CALL the recent announcement that the Illinois Department of Transportation had recently placed a procurement request for a feasibility study to examine what would be needed to improve and possibly upgrade Ill. 57 from Quincy to the Interstate 172 interchange a surprise would be an extreme understatement.

Just days before, IDOT had seemingly excluded the project from its five-year priority list of projects to be funded under the Build Illinois capital plan, offering only some much-needed repairs.

This turn of events could only have happened through the concerted, bipartisan efforts of local leaders, with a push from Sen. Jil Tracy, R-Quincy, and Rep. Randy Frese, R-Paloma.

This group acted strategically, putting together a solid proposal that included input from renowned transportation experts and input from local governments, business leaders and more. It included a three-phase funding plan that explained how the work could be completed.

The plan was sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker on July 8.

Importantly, the message was amplified in late October at the Tri-State Development Summit held in Quincy. There, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood lended his voice and bona fides to those calling for the vital project's completion. Also in attendance were Pritzker's Senior Adviser Nikki Budzinski and IDOT Deputy Secretary Doug House, who were able to see firsthand the need for expanding Ill. 57.

Hope was high after the Summit, and the initial IDOT plan appeared to have dashed that hope.

As it turns out, though, persistance pays off.

The message got to Pritzker and those in his administration who could make the needed course correction to start looking at the project.

On behalf of the region, we offer our thanks to the governor, Deputy Gov. Christian Mitchell, acting IDOT Secretary Omer Osman, and Budzinski and House for all their efforts in opening the door for this project. We are grateful they see how crucial this project is to the economic well-being of this entire region.

We also are thankful to the organizers and attendees at the Tri-State Development Summit, who once again leveraged the interests of the 36 counties in three states that it represents to achieve progress that could provide enormous regional benefits.

And to all those who worked to orchestrate and prepare the plan, many of whom might receive no other recognition, we also offer our thanks.

Now, though, the real work begins.

The IDOT request will entail a feasibility study only, which means no one can afford to sit back and wait to see what happens.

Whoever is hired to complete the study must see the need for Ill. 57's expansion. With the voice already gathered to speak on the issue, we are confident that message will be heard.