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No bike trails could jeopardize funding for Yorkville’s Route 47 widening project

Updated: August 15, 2011 12:17AM

YORKVILLE — City officials here are scrambling to figure out a way to keep from spending money on bike trails along the Route 47 widening project without endangering the project getting done at all.

Within the last week, the city found out from the Illinois Department of Transportation that taking the trails out of the plan would require more engineering. That engineering would cost the city another $30,000, state officials said.

But more importantly, redoing the engineering could push the widening project, planned between Kennedy Road and Route 71, back six to nine months, which would delay it another year.

That delay into another fiscal year could kill funding for the project at all.

“This puts the project in danger,” said Mayor Gary Golinski this week. “So, where do we go from here?”

Aldermen at this week’s City Council meeting did not have an answer to that question. Some railed against the state, others pointed out that the city has changed its mind, and might have to pay for that. But the direction from Golinski was clear.

“I don’t care what happened before, or who did what,” he said. “This is the situation we’re at now. I don’t want to see anything get in the way of this project.”

Indeed, widening Route 47 through the middle of Yorkville has been years in the planning. Right now, the two-lane road from Sugar Grove through to the southern edge of Yorkville has become a bottleneck, causing traffic jams and delays.

IDOT has three separate plans to widen that entire length. Most imminent is the widening from Kennedy Road to Route 71. The engineering is finished and the state has plans to bid the project by the early fall so it can start construction in spring 2012.

The engineering included the bike trails along parts of the road, for which IDOT would pay 80 percent of, with the city would pay 20 percent. That is now standard design for state roads.

The city can opt out of it, which is what aldermen wanted to do because of lack of money for the 20 percent match. Back in 2010 and again in 2011, the city held referendums asking citizens if they wanted to sell bonds, and thus raise taxes, to get the 20 percent match for the trails. Both times, citizens turned down the tax hike.

But the state was already engineering a road with the trails, in part because no jurisdiction has ever turned down the trails before, and in part because Yorkville previously had told IDOT it wanted the trails.

That has been the intent, agreed to by Yorkville since planning began in 2004.

Alderman Diane Teeling, 4th Ward, pointed out that it was reinforced to the state when the city received a $100,000 grant from IDOT in 2008 for an integrated transportation plan, and passed that plan in 2009. Also, IDOT has held several public hearings on the project through the years, and no one ever spoke against the bike trails being in the plan.

“So now the City Council has a new direction. Fine,” Teeling said. “But when you turn around a moving train, there are ramifications.”

Alderman Carlo Colosimo, 1st Ward, saw it differently. While he agreed the council is turning the train around, he accused the state of being too rigid.

“Now they are twisting our arm, and I don’t appreciate it,” he said.

He and Alderman Rose Spears, 4th Ward, said they still would not vote for bike trails because voters twice turned the referendums down.

Teeling said the referendum was asking voters about a tax increase, not if they wanted bike trails or not. For that reason, she helped start a campaign to try to raise privately the $116,000 it would cost for the 20 percent match.

But on May 24, aldermen in a consensus vote said they even would turn down privately raised funds because the trails would create an annual maintenance cost. They said they also did not want the city to have to pay for that.

Colosimo said this week he doubted a private organization could raise that much money for the trails, and even said he had not seen any evidence the money is being raised. That irked Teeling, who said the group canceled several fund-raising events after the council “told us not to bother.”

Whatever happens, aldermen need to decide soon what to do. City Administrator Bart Olson said the state wants the city to commit to everything by September. He said if the city is serious about opting out of the trails and changing the plan, it might want to do so even quicker than that.

The clock does not start ticking on the six- to nine-month delay until the city makes its decision. So if aldermen wait until September to decide, “it’s six to nine months from then,” Olson said.

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