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Geneva officials hope to massage road grant timing

Updated: March 8, 2013 7:38AM

GENEVA — City officials here are bumping up against the highway construction version of the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.

In this case, the question relates to the ongoing work to turn East State Street into an updated, prosperous commercial entryway into the city.

At stake is more than $1.2 million in federal grant money administered through the state.

State officials last week announced that Geneva received the money from the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program, or ITEP. The program is federally funded, but is administered through the state Department of Transportation.

Geneva officials applied for the money as a way to pay for the streetscape along East State Street — things like decorative lighting, sidewalks, trails and other enhancements.

That’s what ITEP money is for. It is separate from road construction money, and, in fact, cannot be used for construction of the roadway itself.

Eventually, city officials have a great need for the ITEP money for enhancements along East State Street. But Dan Dinges, Geneva’s public works director, said the city’s fear is it will build the new enhancements that are then torn up when the state redoes State Street.

State Street is Route 38, a state highway, through Geneva.

Last fall, Geneva aldermen decided to go ahead with Phase II engineering for work on State Street itself, thinking it better to do the road — the egg, perhaps — first, before the enhancements — the chicken, perhaps — or maybe the other way around.

Officials want to be ready when the state decides to put Route 38 on its priority list.

In the meantime, the city applied for the ITEP money, not necessarily thinking it would be funded this year.

“We didn’t expect it,” Dinges said of the award announced last week. “But it’s good news.”

It won’t be good news, though, if the city has to turn the money down. Dinges said city officials are talking with IDOT about the timing of the grant, if the city can delay getting the money, or take it and hold onto it until they need it.

What they would like to do is coordinate with the state to have the state fund roadway construction, and the city use the grant for the enhancements. Any entity that turns down an ITEP grant is forbidden from applying again for at least two more years.

For Geneva, it’s all about economic development along its entryway from the east. Just this week, the city announced it purchased another parcel along East State Street as officials try to assemble land in a size attractive to developers.

Already, the city has had successful redevelopment with the Aldi and CVS stores at East State and East Side Drive. Dairy Queen also upgraded its facility there and the city did some sidewalk work there.

“There is a lot of energy on the East Side,” Dinges said. “We’re just trying to join more parcels to give developers flexibility.”

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