The McLean County Board has approved a new expansion to the Route 66 Bike Trail after receiving $2 million in state funding.
“We received the funding for this project back in 2012, and since then it’s just been a matter of putting together plans and getting approval,” Eric Schmitt, McLean County Engineer, said.
The new stretch of the trail will extend from Towanda Avenue in Normal to County Highway 29 in Towanda. The total cost will be around $1.9 million.
Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program contributions will pay $1.5 million, and the communities along the trail will cover the remaining 20% of the cost.
McLean County will pay $95,000, Bloomington will cover $157,000, and Normal will pay about $116,000. The rest will be split between McLean, Towanda, Lexington and Chenoa.
In response to these plans, many Blo-No residents expressed negative feelings and questioned why their tax dollars will go towards building bike trails instead of funding schools.
Schmitt responded to these concerns by explaining that the grants were specifically intended for additions such as the route 66 bike trail expansion.
“The grants from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program can only go towards bike trails or other similar enhancements,” Schmitt said.
Additionally, he added, these plans are just one part of the ongoing Route 66 project which started in the 90s. “This was the next logical piece.”
The construction for the Towanda expansion will begin in April of 2015 and may cause some added construction traffic, says Schmitt.
“There will be times when it’s down to one lane with flaggers. But residents will be made aware of these changes ahead of time.”
The county also has plans for a 2.5 mile section of the trail to start from Highway 29 in Towanda; work would begin on this section in late 2015. ITEP gave McLean County $1 million for this section of the trail, and other funding will come from the surrounding communities — $82,000 from Bloomington, $61,000 from Normal, and a share from other towns along the route based on their populations.
Another mile, building off of the section from Fox Creek Road in Bloomington to Shirley, will be constructed as well if funding can be acquired.
Eventually, McLean County officials hope that the Historic Route 66 Bike Trail will run 370 miles from Chicago to the Illinois state line.