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Public hearing good news for wider Route 30

A public hearing, to be scheduled later this year, is good news for the proposed U.S. Route 30 widening project. Officials need to get all their i's dotted and t's crossed so the work goes forward sooner, rather than later.

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 10:46 a.m. CST

Supporters of the widening of U.S. Route 30 between Rock Falls and Fulton haven't had a lot to cheer about lately.

The widening project, from two to four lanes, has been in the planning stages for a long time. 

The route would run from state Route 40 in Rock Falls to state Route 136 east of Fulton, about 20 miles or so.

It would involve construction of a bypass around Morrison.

The total cost, as estimated in 2009, could approach $150 million.

But the $8.2 million in federal and state dollars set aside for design and engineering apparently is bearing fruit.

A couple of weeks ago, Morrison Mayor Everett Pannier received an email from the state Department of Transportation. An IDOT official informed Pannier that a public hearing on the project would be scheduled this year.

After IDOT shares its plans and the public comments on them, the project would seem to be another step closer to fruition.

Additional sign-offs on the project would be needed after the hearing, then IDOT should be ready to select a route.

And after that, we would expect, the widening project should be ready to be placed on the state's 5-year plan for road improvements.

Then, perhaps, the project will become inevitable.

Mayor Pannier has learned not to get his hopes up. He commented last week, "We all kind of feel that it may not happen in our lifetimes."

One thing we know: It won't happen until all the necessary hoops are jumped through. The public hearing slated for 2014 is one of those hoops.

IDOT's eventual selection of a route will have a big impact on traffic volume through Morrison. Through-traffic will take the bypass, meaning that the current Route 30 traffic through the city could decline from about 11,000 vehicles a day to about 6,000.

While less traffic will mean less congestion and greater safety, it also may mean fewer customers for Morrison businesses. In 2008, the Morrison City Council endorsed the southern route for the bypass on the belief that the city's industrial park would stand to benefit.

Economic development officials need to be ready to dovetail the project with a larger plan for regional growth, taking into account the projected impact of the Thomson federal prison, whenever it opens.

We certainly hope the project does happen in our lifetimes. If all the i's are dotted and t's crossed before the state Legislature adopts its next capital construction bill, the Route 30 project might well get underway sooner, not later.

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