DECATUR — Construction could start in 2021 on a long-planned overpass that would carry Brush College Road over Faries Parkway and adjacent Norfolk Southern Railway tracks.
The Decatur City Council on Monday took several steps forward on the plan, which has been in the works for nearly a decade. Those included the purchase of a property at 3915 Faries Parkway, now in the path of the work, and an agreement related to financing of the project.
“This is the most important project that the city has done because it can increase economic development,” Councilman Pat McDaniel said. “Once this is done, it will be a really good investment.”
In total, the Brush College Road improvement project includes multiple components, each a significant undertaking in its own right: the overpass at Faries Parkway; an overpass just a few blocks south to take vehicles over a Norfolk Southern-owned rail yard; and a state project to widen the intersection with East William Street Road and expand Brush College Road from two lanes to four lanes, officials have said. The current phase of work is estimated to cost about $40 million, while officials previously put the cost of the full project at more than $80 million.
“This is a very large and complicated project in regard to finance,” City Manager Scot Wrighton said.
Officials have said the overpass will eliminate delays that a 2013 transportation study revealed to be the longest in the city. Drivers waited an average of 17 hours each week for trains to pass at Brush College and Faries, the study said.
Last year, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced a $25 million grant from the federal government to go toward the overpass. The money comes from the Illinois Competitive Freight Program.
The city is also currently working with the Illinois Commerce Commission to gain final approval for $12 million in Grade Crossing Protection funds according to a city document. Other funding has already been awarded, such as a $2 million grant from the Illinois Jobs Now! program in 2010.
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An estimated $4 million will come from state motor fuel tax, Public Works Director Matt Newell said. He acknowledged that this could lead to a delay in other road and bridge projects, but said the city wouldn't be eligible for the funding to complete the Brush College Road improvements without contributing those funds.
“We are getting the federal and state funding because we are using state motor fuel tax dollars for this project,” Newell said.
Decatur receives around $2 million in state motor fuel tax revenue every year, Newell said. He estimated the city could see an increase of more than 60% in revenue because of the tax increase enacted by state lawmakers earlier this year.
Also on Monday, the council entered into an agreement to spend up to $3.6 million in federal money to relocate utilities and buy right-of-way for the project. The city will match $3.2 million, $2 million of which will be paid by state motor fuel tax.
The purchase of 3915 Faries Parkway is the first of many properties along Brush College Road that the city plans to purchase and demolish so they no longer are in the way of construction. Newell said there might be 40 properties on that road that the city will look into for potential demolition. The council agreed to spend up to $120,000 on acquiring the property: $80,000 to buy it and an additional $40,000 to assist with relocating the occupants. A memo to the council said the deal was reached "after much negotiation."
City documents said the property was appraised at $69,000. Owners were listed in the documents as Darryl and Jeremy Szczelaszczyk, who could not be reached for comment Monday. A sign near the entrance says the building is the home of "Cheap Ass Auto Repairs." The building was locked Monday afternoon and a phone call wasn't answered.
The money comes from state motor fuel tax proceeds, but a city document said it would be reimbursed by a state grant.
The council also approved in a 7-0 vote an agreement with Ameren Illinois Company to relocate the electrical substation at 1840 N. Brush College Rd. The $4.8 million cost of relocation will be covered in three ways: $2 million in freight funds, $2 million in Illinois Commerce Commission, pending approval, and $818,000 in state motor fuel tax funds.