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EDITORIAL: Plan for East Side Highway in Bloomington Needed

 

Should local governments support a plan that identifies a preferred route for a possible-but-not-real-popular link between Interstates 55 and 74 along the east edge of Bloomington-Normal? Or, should they try to put the brakes on it?

When local elected officials met this week to discuss what could result in a north-south highway about a mile east of Towanda-Barnes Road, there were many crosscurrents and undercurrents. Here are the most pertinent among them — some clearly articulated, some only whispered:

– Identifying a preferred route now for a road that might be built in 10 or 25 years is a classic example of a “greater good” tug-of-war. It would elevate the uncertainty for owners of 19 homes and farmsteads that would be swallowed up by the “preferred option” if it moves forward. But many hundreds more would be relieved of anxieties connected to not knowing precisely where the road would go. And if a specific right-of-way isn’t identified and secured now but is needed later, the impact on those in the road’s path would be greater and taxpayers would pay more for land acquisition.

– There’s a lack of confidence in projections of Twin City growth that stands behind the belief a new road will be needed. Some think the forecasts don’t take into account the recession and weak recovery. Part of the uncertainty comes from worries about what State Farm’s expansive plans in Phoenix, Dallas and Atlanta might mean for Bloomington-Normal. Archer Daniels Midland’s recent decision to move its headquarters out of Decatur did nothing to calm local qualms.

– Some think the need for a new highway can be neutralized or delayed if local governments would push for west-side residential and business growth. Extending Mitsubishi Parkway and placing an additional interstate exchange at College Avenue could create attractive development opportunities on either side of the west-side interstate bypass. At the very least, this thinking goes, stop using tax dollars for east-side infrastructure that should be financed by developers.

– Stepped-up east-side traffic, fueled by new schools and churches, already is negatively affecting some old and new subdivisions and increasing street maintenance costs. Consultants say if east-side growth continues at its current pace, we could see a serious breakdown in the transportation network.

For some, pushing the preferred option simply enables a future where, if there’s an undeniable need for a new road, we could lobby for federal money. But others worry (to paraphrase a “Field of Dreams” line) that “if we plan it, they will build it,” that advancement of a preferred route will “green light” the project even if the need is debatable. Once the feds adopt a route, there may be few opportunities for local governments to slow or deep-six the east-side proposal. If asked, the locals could refuse to help fund any future planning. Otherwise, they may need to count on their representatives in Washington and Springfield to construct roadblocks. And if lawmakers perceive mixed community sentiment, or if special interests have their ears, there are no guarantees.

This is complicated stuff. It’s tempting to take the (pardon the pun) easiest route by declining to plan for something that may never be needed. But that would border on reckless.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Eastside Highway in Bloomington and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

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