URBANA — It's probably going to take a new state capital program, a new federal highway program or some other special circumstance to pay for an estimated $70 million Interstate 74/57 interchange improvement project in west Champaign, a state transportation official said Wednesday.
That was not the message that Champaign County Board Chairman Alan Kurtz wanted to hear.
"My letter shows urgency. We have an unsafe interchange. It's been proven," Kurtz said of the letter he presented to Joseph Crowe, the engineer in Illinois Department of Transportation District 5. "We are in the top 5 percent in the state for accidents, we've had 335 accidents (in the last five years) and we've had a couple of fatalities.
"And they're talking 10 years down the road (until the 50-year-old interchange can be rebuilt). That's not acceptable to me. With the increase in population we have, the increased enrollment at the University of Illinois, that means increased vehicular traffic. Right now, there's 40,000 vehicles a day going through that interchange. In five years, it could be 60,000."
The letter from Kurtz had the backing, he said, of the local intergovernmental council that includes the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the village of Savoy, the UI, Parkland College, the local school and park districts, the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, the Urbana & Champaign Sanitary District and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission
"We understand that a project of this magnitude cannot be accomplished with the typical program funding levels received by District 5," Kurtz wrote in his letter. "We encourage the district to pursue other special revenue funding streams available for projects of this magnitude in the state."
The letter also went to Gov. Pat Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. It was the second time Kurtz had asked for more IDOT funding in the East Central Illinois area.
"We never heard back from the original letter, but I've sent another one to him today with the support of the entire intergovernmental council," Kurtz said of his letter to Quinn.
IDOT has included money in its budget for phase one engineering for the project, but not for design or construction.
"It's a big project, a capital bill-type project," Crowe said Wednesday at an IDOT open house at the Champaign County Highway Department building. "This is a project that's probably going to cost $65 (million) to $70 million. It's too big for just the regular program."
In a typical year District 5 gets about $40 million for all highway and bridge repairs, safety projects and engineering work, he said.