The decades-long discussion for a major beltway across the eastern part of Decatur took another step toward reality this year.
It was announced in September that Macon County reached an agreement to purchase land near Brush College Road and Illinois 48 that would allow work to start on a “connector project” that itself would be the starting point for the Macon County Beltway. The project, a 22-mile stretch of road estimated to cost $220 million, would carry truck traffic around the southern and eastern edges of Decatur, rather than have trucks use rural streets and congested areas.
The county will pay $225,000 for 8.3 acres of land it has spent the last six months negotiating to purchase with private landowners. That covers about $26,500 per acre as well as the filing and legal fees to get the deal done. The land acquisition and cost to redevelop the intersection for the connector project is covered by $10 million in state money given to the county in 2014 by former Gov. Pat Quinn. Work is expected to start on the connector this spring.
City and county leaders currently are focused on the first segment of the beltway, which would cost $140 million and create 6.2 miles of four-lane road between Illinois 48 near Interstate 72 and Illinois 105, or William Street Road. The road would closely follow Reas Bridge Road and Prairie View Road before connecting with Illinois 105 east of the Decatur Airport.
When construction on the beltway will begin in earnest remains to be seen, as a vast majority of the project would be paid for through grants from the federal government. Grant applications have been sent to Infrastructure For Rebuilding America, the U.S. Department of Transportation program that assists in local road projects, but no response is expected until 2018 at the earliest.
The beltway has also run into more opposition the closer it comes to fruition. The Macon County Farm Bureau has come out against the project as currently planned, as the road would take away existing farmlands. Officials from the Farm Progress Show, which has made its home at the Progress City USA event site in the northeastern part of Decatur every other year since 2005, also raised concerns that the project would cut into the show’s existing demonstration fields, a major draw for the three-day event.