When you think of increased traffic loads in The Sauk Valley in the not-too-distant future, two primary areas come to mind: the eastern edge of Dixon in Lee County, where the city plans economic and residential growth, and the U.S. Route 30 corridor in Whiteside County, where long-standing plans to accommodate growth might finally be coming to fruition.
In 2007, the city commissioned a traffic study that looked at the Interstate 88 interchange area, in anticipation of major economic development in that part of town.
Among its conclusions: By 2030, traffic on nearby state Route 26 (Galena Avenue) will reach an average of 52,500 vehicles a day, which would require widening it to three lanes in each direction. Bloody Gulch Road, which intersects with 26, will carry about 40,000 vehicles a day, which means it will need two lanes in each direction.
The study looked at the area known as the I-88 and Galena Avenue Planned Development District, which is bounded by Keul Road on the north, College Avenue on the west, Progress Drive and Lievan Road on the south, and U.S. Route 52 on the east.
Projections were based on city expectations that, over the next 20 years or so, the area would be filled with new commercial, industrial and residential growth. Specifically, it expected about 458 acres near the exchange to be devoted to commercial growth, 304 to residential growth, and 1,510 to industrial development, some of which has happened.
About 75 percent of the industrial development is expected to come south of I-88, while land devoted to commercial purposes primarily will be in the area between Routes 26 and 52, from east to west, and from I-88 to the Union Pacific Railroad, south to north.
Residential areas will be built directly south and east of the existing Overlook Gardens off Bloody Gulch Road, city officials predicted at the time.
The area now boasts such businesses as Walmart and its shopping center neighbors; UPM Raflatac; and the Road Ranger truck stop plaza. The housing development at Overlook Gardens continues to grow.
Before Walmart built its distribution center in Sterling, it considered Dixon. Economic development leaders say the area still is a prime spot for other such distribution centers; landing one, or any other large company, would require some work on local roads, however.
“I think one of the things that’s going to be required is some kind of traffic control coming off the interstate onto Galena,” Dixon Mayor Burke said. “Some kind of light is going to be needed there when the traffic increases.”
That will require a conversation with IDOT before those increases peak, which is on the mayor’s radar but has not yet needed to take place, he said.
The truck traffic that Road Ranger attracts also will need to be addressed, Burke said.
The truck stop, which opened in 2011, faces Route 26, but its entrance is off Bloody Gulch, and he has seen trucks backed up to 26 at times.
He’d like to see the intersection there widened, which would involve the city and maybe a joint project with South Dixon Township, he said.
As housing continues to develop in Overlook Gardens, that also will bring more traffic to the area, Burke said. He envisions Bloody Gulch widening to four lanes in that area.
Plans have long been in the works to widen 24 miles of U.S. Route 30 between Rock Falls and Fulton, from two to four lanes – so long that Morrison Mayor Everett Pannier and other officials “kind of feel that it may not happen in our lifetimes,” he said.
The work is needed because Route 30 – which runs through Morrison’s downtown – already can’t adequately handle existing traffic, which is projected to hit 12,000 vehicles a day by 2018, and the stretch of road is unsafe, legislators have said. Area economic development groups herald the project as a boon to the area.
The plan calls for widening the highway from state Route 136 east of Fulton to state Route 40 in Rock Falls, and routing it around Morrison, with a bypass either north or south of the city.
The $150 million project was announced in June 2007 – and has been percolating along kind of quietly ever since. More than $8 million in federal and state money has been set aside for its design and engineering.
Finally, last month, IDOT told Pannier that a public hearing on the project, specifically on the proposed bypass routes, would be scheduled for the fall.
Once it gathers comments, IDOT should be ready to choose a route, and finally, the project should be ready to be placed on the state’s 5-year road improvement plan. Once on the plan, it’s a go. The state’s current 5-year plan runs through 2019, so presumably, Route 30 would be in the 2020-25 mix.
After 7 years of cooling his heels, Pannier still is skeptical, though.
“Considering the financial situations of both the state and federal governments, the likelihood of this happening in the near future is almost nil, in my opinion,” he said.
He is concerned that, no matter the route chosen, funneling traffic around Morrison will hurt local businesses.
“It is imperative that if we have a four-lane loop around Morrison, that marketing and other assistance, up to and including possible relocation, be provided,” he said.
The City Council endorses a southern route, saying it would fit better in the city’s long-term comprehensive growth plan. That’s also where the industrial park is, should the expansion bring or complement hoped-for economic development.
If the southern bypass is chosen, in-town traffic would plunge to 5,800 cars a day, which will negatively affect some Morrison businesses, according to the state.
When the project actually gets on the state’s 5-year road improvements plan, Pannier has said, is anyone’s guess.
IDOT also is in the very preliminary planning stages of a project to resurface state Route 78 from French Creek bridge to Route 30 in Morrison.
“That one is complicated because of all of the crosswalks involved in that part of town and the need to have all of the crosswalks ADA-compliant,” Department of Transportation community liaison Steve Wilkins has said.
Follow Route 30 online
Go to www.dot.state.il.us/us30/index1.html to learn more about the U.S. Route 30 expansion project, and to get updates.
Major bridge project in Savanna's future
The Illinois Department of Transportation also is planning to replace the "functionally obsolete" U.S. Route 52 bridge over the Mississippi River, built in 1932, that connects Savanna and Sabula, Iowa.
The $62 million project also involves reconstructing state Route 84 at the north end of Savanna.
At 20 feet, the old bridge is too narrow, which forces wider vehicles into the opposing lane and has contributed to crashes, IDOT officials have said.
The new bridge, which will have shoulders that can accommodate bicyclists, will be built about 100 feet south of the old one; construction is set to begin in spring 2015 and finish in fall 2016.
The two-lane bridge is expected to remain open to traffic during the work, since the nearest alternate crossing is the bridge 20 miles south that connects Fulton and Clinton, Iowa.
The existing bridge will be demolished in 2017.
In addition, the intersection of state Routes 84 and 64 with U.S. 52 will be widened and a northbound to westbound left-turn lane will be added.
IDOT's current 5-year road improvement plan
Some of the projects on the state Department of Transportation's 2014-19 highway improvement plan:
• State Route 40: Resurfacing and drainage from Sterling to Milledgeville, $3.6 million
• State Route 78: U.S. 30 west of Morrison to Carroll County line, $2.4 million
• State Route 78: Bridge replacement on French Creek south of Morrison, $1.9 million
• Black Road: Bridge rehabilitation and replacement at Rock Creek, $1.3 million
• U.S. Route 30: Mississippi River bridge maintenance in Fulton, $800,000
• State Route 251: Resurfacing from Compton to Rochelle, $3.4 million
• U.S. Route 30: Culvert replacement, $1.6 million
• Melugins Grove, Town Hall roads: Bridge replacement at ditches; $3.4 million
• State Route 2: Culvert replacement from Beltline Road south of Rockford to north of River Road north of Byron, $4 million
• State Route 72: Resurfacing from Stillman Road in Stillman Valley to west of Interstate 39, $2.4 million
• State Route 251: Resurfacing from Winnebago County line to Rochelle, $4.5 million
• U.S. Route 52: Replacement of Mississippi River bridge in Savanna, $75 million
• State Route 40: Resurfacing from Mount Carroll to Chadwick, $2.7 million
• Galena Street: Replacement of bridge over Carroll Creek northwest side of Mount Carroll, $1.6 million
• Interstate 80: Resurfacing from east of State Route 40 to west of State Route 26, $17.6 million
• State Route 26: Additional lanes and intersection reconstruction, curb and gutter for a tenth of a mile from Red Covered Bridge Road to Interstate 80, $3 million
• State Route 40: Resurfacing from Interstate 380 to State Route 92, $3.2 million
Bridge updates online
Go to www.dot.il.gov/us52il64/overview.html for updates and more information on the Sabula bridge project.