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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Sterling bike/pedestrian trail grant might also be a plus for drivers

A hoped-for state grant for a bicycle trail looms large if Sterling’s bumpy East Second Street is to be repaired anytime soon. Residents should make their support for the project known to regional and state officials.

Anyone who has driven on East Second Street in Sterling for the nine blocks between First Avenue and Broadway knows that it is one of the city’s busier streets.

It’s also one of the city’s bumpier streets.

So why should motorists who use that street be interested in whether the city wins an $880,000 Illinois Department of Transportation grant to put a bicycle and pedestrian trail on the south edge of that street?

Because, apparently, the grant is a linchpin to an overall $2.7 million project that would rebuild this bumpy, busy street that motorists coming off the First Avenue bridge often use as a shortcut when heading toward Sterling’s east side, and vice versa.

At a recent Sterling City Council meeting where the proposed bike and pedestrian trail was unveiled by Willett, Hofmann and Associates representatives, Alderman Jim Wise asked, “If the grant does not get approved, do we go ahead with the roadwork?”

City Manager Scott Shumard responded, “That remains to be seen.”

From our point of view, we like the idea of the bike/pedestrian trail being built as an addition to other local trails. It would connect to the walkway/trail across the Upper Dam from Rock Falls, thus providing greater access to the city’s downtown for bicyclists.

We like the idea that a state grant could pay the lion’s share of the trail project.

We also like the idea of repairing those nine blocks of street pavement, some of it on the rough side, so that motorists have a smoother time of it during their daily travels.

Neighbors who attended a recent City Council meeting voiced concerns that too much traffic uses East Second Street, pointed to the need for those homes to have parking available on the street, and that vehicles travel too fast. One mentioned there aren’t any speed limit signs to be seen.

Plans call for the relatively wide street to be narrowed somewhat, with the space being used to widen and rebuild existing sidewalks, build a 10-foot-wide concrete trail, have an additional 5-foot parkway between the trail and the street, and preserve parking along the street.

The beauty of the narrowed street, planners say, is that it would discourage the use of East Second Street as a through street, making it a little less congested for those who live there.

Whether motorists go along with that concept is an open question.

But if Sterling residents want improvements to East Second Street anytime soon, it appears to us that they’ll have to support the bicycle and pedestrian trail proposal.

And if the $880,000 grant from the state isn’t forthcoming, then the whole project might just be pushed to the back burner.

We think it’s not a bad idea if Sterling residents make their feelings known about proposed improvements for East Second Street, not just to Mayor Skip Lee and City Council members, but to people in authority elsewhere.

Letters of support sent to the Illinois Department of Transportation, state Rep. Tony McCombie, state Sen. Neil Anderson, and even Gov. Bruce Rauner certainly couldn’t hurt the cause, and might just help it.

To us, any project that lessens the stress on vehicles’ suspension systems along East Second Street deserves strong consideration.

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