The Town of Normal has received a $13 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund the town’s underpass project, officials announced Wednesday.
U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis (R-Illinois) and Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) along with Senators Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) support the project.
The project will design and construct a pedestrian, bicyclist and passenger underpass as well as a second boarding platform on the south side of the tracks at the Uptown Normal Intermodal Passenger Rail Station, according to a news release.
“This is a huge win not only for the development of Uptown Normal, but for the citizens of Normal,” Davis said in the release.
Davis extended his congratulations to Mayor Chris Koos, the Town Council and the entire community.
“The town’s innovative planning for the future of transportation brought us to this point and we are excited for federal and state dollars to be returning to our community,” Koos said.
Koos seems pleased despite the fact that the town originally requested $16 million.
The funds come in the form of a BUILD grant, or Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development. This type of grant provides a unique opportunity for the DOT to invest in road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives.
The town has been discussing alternatives for years to help improve mobility through the Town of Normal for pedestrians and bicyclists, particularly between Uptown North and Uptown South development areas.
In 2011, the Union Pacific Railroad closed the at-grade trail crossing between Linden Street and Broadway Avenue used by passengers, pedestrians and Constitution Trail users, according to the Uptown Normal Railroad Crossing Alternatives Analysis report from 2017.
In response, the Town re-routed the Constitution Trail to the at-grade crossing at Linden Street, which made travel inconvenient for trail users.
With hopes of increasing mobility for trail users while also improving safety for Amtrak passengers traveling between the train platforms and the existing transportation center, Uptown Station, the town proposed an overhead pedestrian bridge.
A design was drawn up, but the original crossing was primarily catering to Amtrak passengers and leaving trail users and bicyclists with no solution.
The biggest concern was that the current pedestrian-rail crossing facility in the project area “created unsafe situations where users may hurry across the tracks before a train arrives,” the report stated, especially considering increased rail activity and speeds.
In 2015, the Normal Town Council approved an update to their master plan for the redevelopment of the 8-acre area south of the tracks, including a new 70,000 square foot public library and up to 500,000 square feet of residential, retail and office space.
With the approval of this grant, construction on the project could be completed as soon as 2020.