Wednesday, March 04, 2009
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Logan County reviews road projects and uses for stimulus allotment

Allotment too short for Fifth Street Road project

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[March 04, 2009]  While the city and county transportation allotments fall too short for either city or county to move on the shared top priority, Fifth Street Road, Logan County engineer Bret Aukamp said that he is still glad to have the extra funds. Aukamp shared the good news with the county's road and bridge committee on Monday evening. He now has a figure in hand that Logan County would be receiving through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The state has allocated the county $368,344 in stimulus funding.

RestaurantThese are not the same funds as for the other stimulus projects that were submitted last month in the regional requests for specific projects. But rather these are part of the bulk federal stimulus funds being given to all states for each state to distribute through its Department of Transportation to its counties and communities.

Illinois was allotted $281 million, of which the Illinois Department of Transportation has allotted over $200 million to the large metropolitan areas, and the remaining $33 million goes to the rest of the 96 downstate counties. Illinois has 102 counties.

IDOT used the same formula for the distribution of the bonus funds that it uses to decide how much counties usually get in annual transportation funding. The amount Logan County has been allotted is equal to the amount usually received in one year from the federal allotment. "So it's kind of like getting a one-year bonus," Aukamp said


The biggest qualification for the use of the funds is that projects must meet federal criteria. The allotment needs to be claimed in March and has one year to get "obligated to a project."

The General Assembly must approve the allotments first and then they would become available in June.

Aukamp said that he was glad for the funds. He would be checking the federal criteria, but it appeared that there were already plenty of projects for the committee to choose where those funds could be applied.

He then reviewed for the committee the projects planned, pointing out pros and cons in using the funding for those projects, and asked for their direction.

The county has three major projects on its docket:

  1. County Highway 10, the Elkhart to Mount Pulaski blacktop -- scheduled to proceed this year; waiting to hear from the state about economic development funds that have been applied for

  2. County Highway 1, Mount Pulaski to Illinois 54 -- to be let for bids in May, possibly to be scheduled for 2010

  3. Fifth Street Road, seven culverts being replaced from 500th Avenue to 225th Avenue -- to be done this year; funding is in place

The first project that the funds could be used toward would be the top project planned for the county this year. This project is ready to roll, has already been through the federal review process and meets criteria.

It is a road that connects Elkhart and Mount Pulaski. A portion of that road also passes the Elkhart mine operation. The road helps transport coal to Interstate 55; some coal also goes toward Mount Pulaski. This is a $2 million project that was submitted to the state for economic development assistance last year.

Aukamp said that he has spent considerable time in recent weeks trying to find out the status of that funding request. He said that the state appointed a new transportation secretary Saturday. He hoped that might help.


There is a major drawback to using the stimulus funds for this project. The project is ready to roll and needs to get going in April.

The stimulus funding must first go through state legislature approval and then would not become available until June for bid letting. It would be July before bids could be awarded to contractors, delaying the start of construction until sometime in August or September or maybe into October, making it very complicated, Aukamp said.

"This is a big project and it is going to take a while to build it," Aukamp said. The road would be developed in three phases. The first phase would be from Elkhart to 800th Avenue; the second phase would be from 800th Avenue (the coal mine) to Primm Road; and the third phase from Primm Road to Route 121 in Mount Pulaski.

The second project, Highway 1, also has a hitch. It may be preferable to delay its start as IDOT is giving some consideration to redoing the Route 53-121 overhead. This would cause detours probably into town.

The third project involves replacing seven hazardous box culverts along Fifth Street Road. These are located between 500th and 225th Avenue. This work will complement the work that is to be done later when the road between I-55 and Middletown is fully renovated.

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Aukamp said he is expecting to wrap up paperwork that involved a lot of negotiating with landowners. It would be submitted to IDOT for final approval and would likely be back in time for an April bid letting.

Funds have already been received from a federal grant in the amount of $324,500. The total cost of the 90-10 agreement is estimated at $360,000, with the county or the township supplying 10 percent.

Aukamp summed up his review of the projects at hand by saying that the work on the Elkhart-Mount Pulaski blacktop would be better started earlier in the year due to its size and it being a concrete overlay.

Each of the projects would require other scheduling considerations, such as avoiding parallel road closures, particularly around Mount Pulaski, where several possible projects could be taking place in this one season; and local seasonal traffic needs, such as trying to accommodate for peak times when farmers need to go in and out of their fields, and the start of the school year. To delay this project would take public understanding.

Fifth Street Road still a priority

Terry Carlton, county board chairman, questioned what projects the county had prioritized in planning.

Aukamp said that Fifth Street Road was the top priority in the five-year plan.

That project is actually a higher priority and has been in the planning for a longer period than any other project, Aukamp said. But the project has a funding partner involved: the city of Lincoln.


"While they have gotten some money also, they did not get near enough to do that project, either," he said. He added that he has been in contact with representatives of the city, including city engineer Mark Mathon, but the subject had not yet gone before the council for discussion.

The city of Lincoln stimulus allotment is $464,878. Aukamp doubted the city would want to go forward without some other additional funding, but he would wait to see what they would say.

Since planning began, the city has gradually become responsible for more of this roadway project. The first phase, which is now deemed the urban section, lies between Lincoln Parkway and I-55. In January 2003 the city took over a 7.5-mile stretch that with other segments now brings the city's portion to represent 75 percent of the project, and the county's portion has diminished to 25 percent.

While Aukamp thought that this would be the last of the IDOT stimulus dollars, he thought the area could still see some capital improvement stimulus funds come through. A $6.2 million request was submitted for Fifth Street Road in the regional requests that were made last month.

Committeemen agreed with Aukamp's observations. Bill Martin offered that he thought it best to wait and see where to commit the funding, based on what else might yet come in, either from economic development or additional stimulus funds, but that the county would be accepting the current proffered allotment to place on one or more of the projects.


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