URBANA — A $1.1 million project to rebuild a deteriorating section of Philo Road in Urbana may be in jeopardy after the discovery of legal opinions that appear to bar the county from participating in its reconstruction.
Under an agreement tentatively approved by the Champaign County Board earlier this month, the county and the city would split evenly the cost of the reconstruction project from Windsor Road south to Urbana's city limits. The county board's action was based on a fringe road agreement approved by both governments in 1996.
But County Engineer Jeff Blue said he received a memo from the Illinois Department of Transportation that says the county cannot use its motor fuel tax money on a joint project that does not use federal aid funds.
"IDOT found a memo dated 12 years ago somewhere in their archives, directed to Champaign County," he said. "It wasn't anywhere in the IDOT files (at the Paris district office) or anywhere in our files. It was over in Springfield and it said, no, you cannot use county motor fuel tax monies on non-federal aid projects within the municipalities."
Because of the ban, Blue said, "we can't participate with the funding mechanism that we have."
But Urbana's public works director, Bill Gray, wrote by email Friday, "The project will move ahead. County and city will find a solution to cost share."
He did not elaborate, and no other Urbana officials were available for comment.
The Philo Road project was to have used motor fuel taxes exclusively.
"Had it been a federal aid project we could have participated," Blue said.
The prohibition discovered by IDOT doesn't affect any past or current fringe road constriction projects, Blue said.
"This is really the only fringe road job that I'm aware of where we've been asked to participate where there weren't any federal funds involved," he said.
Past projects — Windsor Road, Olympian Drive, Curtis Road and North Lincoln Avenue — all involved the use of federal aid funds.
Blue said he isn't sure what where the $550,000 that was to be committed to the South Philo Road project will go now.
"The intent of the fringe road agreement is that we participate in projects within the fringe area. It's probably going to happen that since we cannot participate in this one there's going to be another project," said Blue. "I don't see us getting a windfall of money from this. It's just being put off to the future."