BELLEVILLE — Business owners hope newly finished South 17th Street will spur more development along the Illinois 15 shopping corridor.
The city opened the road Monday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $10.2 million extension project to connect motorists from West Main Street to Frank Scott Parkway West. The project was done in four phases over six years through a variety of hurdles.
"It's a big day for Belleville," Mayor Mark Eckert said.
Eckert said the road will ease congestion on Frank Scott Parkway West, improve safety for student drivers and increase accessibility to Illinois 15 shops and car dealerships.
And, the main entrance to the developing Bicentennial Park will be on 17th Street.
Mike Anthon, vice president of retail development for The DESCO Group that built the Belleville Crossing shopping center, said the company has about 100 acres of undeveloped land there and hopes the new road will attract more retail.
Anthon said that when Target and Home Depot came in 2007, the retailers knew 17th Street would draw residents from the whole area -- downtown, Swansea and Fairview Heights.
Former Rep. Tom Holbrook said the project is about having vision.
"This is a connecting artery that's going to completely rejuvenate this part of town," Holbrook said. "I remember when people didn't think Frank Scott Parkway was needed. Now they ask why it's not four lanes."
Holbrook helped secure about $2.8 million in state and federal funds for the project and commends city leaders for approving a bond issue to finish the project.
The speed limit on the new stretch will be 25 mph from West Main Street to the curve where Belleville West Parkway starts, and then it becomes 30 mph.
Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at email@example.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.