DECATUR — After more than a dozen years in the planning phase, a proposal to improve the Macon County South and East Beltway was unveiled for public thoughts and comments.
The 24-mile project, which is being studied by the Macon County Highway Department in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration and Illinois Department of Transportation, would address congestion through downtown Decatur on major state roadways, improve system linkage between major state roadways in the study area and improve the movement of freight in the project study area.
The location for the proposed roadway is from U.S. Business 51 at Elwin, east along Elwin Road and then around the south side of Mount Zion, east along Sefton Road and then north along Dalton City Road and Prairie View Road, then west along Reas Bridge Road to connect to Illinois 48.
A major cause of the traffic congestion has been Mount Zion, where the population increased 20 percent between 2000 and 2010. This affects the roads in downtown Decatur because current major roadways move traffic through downtown to reach destinations west and north of Decatur.
The project would require 582 acres of additional right-of-way, displace 14 residences, convert approximately 527 acres of farmland to highway use, cause noise impacts to eight receptors, remove about 38 acres of trees, cross 19 bodies of water — including Lake Decatur — impact 2.16 acres of wetlands and use 4.64 acres of land at the Sand Creek Conservation Area.
The cost is projected to be $250 million, with federal money making up 80 percent of cost and local municipalities picking up the rest.
Macon County selected Hanson Professional Services Inc., which retained Decatur’s Chastain & Associates LLC, to carry out the study. After seven years, Gregg Foltz, project manager for Chastain & Associates, said the plan showed Tuesday made the most sense and had the least overall impact on local environment.
The study, which is funded by the DOT, will cost up to $1 million.
The next step of the plan is to secure funding for design, land acquisition and construction, a project that could take up to two years. Other necessities before work can begin include identifying initial construction corridors based on available funds, prepare design to prepare construction documents and to acquire the land within the proposed construction section.
These steps, as well as construction of initial corridor, could take up to 10 years.