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A bridge to Dixon's riverfront plans?

Federal grant sought for $12 million development

DIXON – The city is applying for a federal grant to fulfill a $12 million vision along the riverfront.

The proposed project is highlighted by the construction of a multi-use pedestrian bridge across old Illinois Central railroad piers over the Rock River, reconstruction of East River Street from Galena Avenue to state Route 2, and the addition of just short of 3 miles of pedestrian paths.

Project developers have secured $2.3 million in local non-federal funds, meaning $9.74 million of the project will have to come from the federal grant.

Organizers have invited Sen. Dick Durbin, along with other leaders, to Dixon on Tuesday for a presentation and tour. The deadline for application is June 3 and the city will know before Labor Day if it receives funds.

This is the third time Dixon has applied for federal funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, also known as TIGER. Both previous attempts were denied.

About 900 communities have applied for the grant the previous times it has been offered, said Joel Youngs, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center, who is working with organizers to secure the grant.

Of those 900, about 5 percent will be awarded money, as it is divided into urban and rural programs.

Dixon qualifies for the rural program, Youngs said, which has about $120 million available.

With each failed attempt, the grant application is returned with suggestions. Organizers have taken those to heart, and feel this time is different.

“The first two applications were bigger projects around $20 million, so they may not have been seen as favorable,” Youngs said. “We have scaled back and we think we have a better project put together.”

The TIGER program provides funding to local road, rail, transit and livability projects that promise to achieve critical national objectives.

The proposed $7.95 million bridge project would connect the existing concrete railroad piers with a structure of prefabricated steel bridge 900 feet in length for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Paths will connect Palmyra Avenue to the north with Seventh Street to the south.

The River Street portion of the project includes new sanitary and storm sewer lines, replacing a 75-year-old line that is a constant source of flowage and backup programs, a report from organizers said.

Also, the project includes a 1.5-mile multi-use path along the Rock River from Galena Avenue to the corporate headquarters of Raynor Manufacturing that will use abandoned railroad tracks.

Total cost of the River Street reconstruction alone is expected to be about $4 million and lead to the creation of about 48 construction jobs.

A cost-benefit analysis shows that it will yield about $22 million in a 20-year period. Benefits are measured by such factors as reducing traffic, cutting back stress on infrastructure, and increasing safety, Youngs said. He said a good benefit analysis should outweight the cost of the project 2-to-1, and Dixon comes within range.

If Dixon were awarded the grant, the project would begin in October 2014.

Mayor Jim Burke, and a grant-writing team that includes representatives from the Lee County Council on Aging, Lee-Ogle Transportation System, Kreider Services and Lee County Board, see the possible project as an economic boon to the city.

Just a vision now, Burke said he could see economic development heading east along River Street with the addition of town houses or businesses. Also, he said Dixon plans to connect with a trail system to Wisconsin, enhancing the city’s tourism draw.

Engineers at Willett Hoffmann & Associates are drafting engineering plans for the city pro bono, Burke said.

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