Bridge approaches are state's property, but city's problem

Bridge approaches are state's property, but city's problem

CHAMPAIGN — City engineer Roland White has a stack of papers about a foot high on a table behind his desk. That's 10 years' worth of correspondence with the Illinois Department of Transportation.

It's all about one project: the Windsor Road overpass reconstruction. Specifically, correspondence about trying to coordinate the project with the state government.

There's a lot of bureaucratic red tape that officials need to cut through in trying to break ground on a state-funded transportation project, and White wants to see more coordination between government agencies.

Even though the approaches to the bridge - the sloped road segments on each side that lead up to the overpass - are on state property, IDOT says the city is responsible for their maintenance.

"That is the way the agreement was written back in the late '60s," said Craig Emberton, the acting programming engineer for the local area's IDOT district office.

As IDOT built the overpasses about 50 years ago, it made agreements with each municipality along the interstate that detailed who would be responsible for what.

"The rationale there is the roadway was the city's or the county's or the township's before, all the way across," Emberton said. So when IDOT built the bridges, they agreed that IDOT would maintain the bridge, and the local government would be responsible for everything else.

When IDOT moved forward on a $2.74 million overhaul of the bridge, scheduled to break ground next year, city officials realized that something needed to happen with the bridge approaches.

Sidewalks and bike lanes on a wider bridge don't make a whole lot of difference if the road on either side of the bridge is just as narrow and unaccommodating as it always had been.

White said local officials still don't agree that the city should be responsible for the approaches, which are on state property, not city property. But city officials are now moving forward with a $2.2 million rebuild of the bridge approaches on Windsor Road.

They are hoping to get 80 percent of that covered with money from the federal government that the state controls — a thick grant application lay on White's desk this month. The remainder would be covered with the local 4-cent gas tax, which went into effect this May.

And White had been hoping that the local project to revamp the approaches could join up with the state rebuild of the bridge, but the two projects will be coordinated separately.

"This is a very difficult, inefficient way to do a project," White said.

It's not even guaranteed that the two separate projects will happen at the same time.

"The disruption that that would cause, say over one or two years, would be unacceptable," White said.

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