DECATUR — Repair work for a stretch of Eldorado Street through the heart of the city could begin later this summer after the Decatur City Council approved a $4.1 million state project to fix the roadway.
The improvements would cover Eldorado, or U.S. 36, from North Fairview Avenue to North Church Street. Council members voted 6-0 on Monday to allocate funds to cover the city's share of the project costs, $85,950, in addition to approving repair plans and entering an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation for the work.
Greg Jamerson, program development engineer for IDOT’s District 7, which includes Macon County, said the department plans to resurface the roadway, upgrade curb ramps to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and upgrade traffic signals to include flashing yellow arrows. The repairs are part of a five-year IDOT improvement plan released last year.
"We have multiple projects under development in Decatur," Jamerson said. "You can name a route and we've probably got projects going on there."
Not only is Eldorado one of the city's most traveled roadways, but it also bears many visible signs of wear, such as potholes and cracks. City officials have said road conditions create an overall poor impression for visitors, and can make residents consider inconvenient detours.
Because many major thoroughfares are managed by the state of Illinois, the city and county don’t have jurisdiction to schedule repairs.
"We really don't have the authority to just go out and fix them," said Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, speaking after Monday's meeting. "We have to work with the state on that because those are IDOT-managed highways. So, I'm very excited that Route 36 — at least part of it — is going to be worked on."
Jamerson said IDOT typically looks at the current condition of the pavement and traffic volume as some of the factors that guide which roadways it wants to prioritize for repairs. Matt Newell, the city's public works director, said the department evaluated the pavement and decided it was time to repair it.
“You try to get it repaired before it gets too bad,” he said. “Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot more money.”
Council members voted 6-0 to use $61,800 in funds collected by the state's motor fuel tax, which is 19 cents per gallon, to help pay for the city's portion of the overall project cost.
Newell said the gas tax money will pay for the new traffic signal systems. He also said money from the city’s water and sanitary sewer funds will pay for any manhole lids or water boxes that need to be replaced during the project.
IDOT will now have to put the project out to bid and hire a contractor to do the job. Newell said he believed IDOT's intention was to open for bids in June, but it's ultimately up to the state agency to determine the project's pace.
Jamerson said there’s no defined start date for the department to begin working on the improvements in Decatur, as it depends on how quickly the department can acquire land for the new traffic signal systems.
That process can take time, he said. Regardless, Jamerson said he’s “glad the city is getting their part done in getting the agreements out of the way.”
Other major roadways in the county that IDOT has targeted for improvement through its five-year repair plan include portions of Illinois 121, Interstate 72 and U.S. Business 51, among others.
"Most of the highways in the city haven't felt much love," Moore Wolfe said, adding that she'd like to see all of the targeted roads get the help they need as soon as possible. "So, we're happy that they're starting."
Repairs to city-owned roads could also be in the works soon. Newell said he and his staff are working to identify streets it plans to repair using funds collected by the local motor fuel tax. The city council approved the tax, five cents on each gallon of unleaded fuel, in 2016.
Newell said he plans to present proposals for the repairs to council members during the May 6 council meeting.