So U.S. Route 30 won’t be widened to four lanes between Rock Falls and Fulton after all?
The announcement to that effect by the Illinois Department of Transportation took the wind out of the sails of those who had hoped the long-awaited half-a-billion-dollar project would breathe economic life into Whiteside County.
And they had every reason to believe it would be a positive thing.
Better, faster transportation for Route 30’s 24-mile stretch between Rock Falls and Fulton was deemed a good thing for the regional economy.
The planned bypass around Morrison would have sped the journey for drivers who chafe at slowing down to city speed limits while chugging through the Whiteside County seat.
But the pricey four-lane project began to slip down the list of transportation priorities for a state whose financial health is anything but healthy.
Falling traffic counts since 2011 between Rock Falls and Fulton gave state transportation officials pause.
So did a lack of public support for the project.
That lack of support centered mainly on Morrison, some of whose residents didn’t like the idea that the proposed Route 30 bypass would divert many vehicles from passing through the city and its gas stations, eateries, grocery store and various shops situated along the highway.
And they’ve got a point.
Mayor Everett Pannier made the point that city leaders now know what the future will hold, and can make plans accordingly.
One of those plans certainly must be for the rapid improvement of the existing highway – both inside the city limits and across the countryside.
We could understand the state’s reluctance to allocate much repair money to bumpy Route 30 if their future plans were to replace it.
But now that a four-lane rebirth of Route 30 is no longer in the cards, we strongly encourage IDOT to elevate those deteriorated stretches of Route 30 much higher on their list of roads that need repairs.
To sum it up, the state’s decision means the money spent on its feasibility studies has been wasted. It also means that nearly $500 million originally planned for the project won’t be spent here.
It means more rapid motor vehicle transportation through the Route 30 corridor won’t be coming. It also means Morrison can still expect to continue to play temporary host to hundreds of motorists who pass through daily who otherwise would have taken the bypass.
That might be good for the city, but not so for impatient travelers.
With IDOT’s decision, at least supporters and opponents of the proposed four-lane expansion project have clarity. We hope they make the best of it.