Can you tell me what they're doing to the traffic system at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville? It reminds me now a little of a NASCAR track. -- John D., of Belleville
Hopefully, you won't see cars zipping around at 200 mph, but students, MetroLink riders and other visitors soon will enjoy a faster and more convenient commute around the SWIC campus.
At least, that's the hope as school officials prepare for the completion in late November of the SWIC Multi-Modal Transportation Project.
Begun last October, the project is a joint effort between SWIC and the St. Clair County Transit District. It was designed to ease ever-worsening traffic congestion caused by the continuing growth of both the campus and nearby commercial and residential developments.
It is also expected to better integrate MetroLink into the campus and make walking and cycling more pleasant.
"We're trying to organize it in such a way that it meets various Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) requirements in terms of space between where the entrances are and how close they are to traffic signals," said John Roach, of Roach Consulting Corp. in St. Louis.
"We're also trying to improve the general parking and associated landscaping to give the campus a little more of what I would call an urban feel. And, it will lead to the better integration of the bike trail and improve the internal circulation on the campus."
Already bicyclists are relishing the new bridge that takes them safely over Green Mount Road without having to make a mad dash across the busy roadway. Once across, they can coast down a new cloverleaf-like structure and either make their way toward campus over the tranquil Dr. Tom Amlung Nature Trail or head off to a nearby subdivision that asked the city for bike trail access.
Other changes you'll see:
* A new and improved crosswalk across Carlyle Avenue/Illinois 161. Studies found that every day more than 400 people brave their way across the busy stretch as they try to dodge some of the 15,000 cars.
* An on-campus roundabout to ease traffic congestion at the Green Mount entrance. The roundabout is expected to allow future circulator legs to be added as the campus expands.
* Improved campus entrances and exits with additional turn lanes, again to ease backups from both student and MetroLink traffic.
* An improved campus circulator pedestrian/bike path that will accommodate campus expansion. Improved landscaping, lighted paths, and benches should make it an even friendlier pedestrian campus.
"And this was from leftover money from the MetroLink extension from the college to the (Scott) air force base," Roach said. "The college wanted to capture those funds in order to do the kinds of improvements that you see."
As a result, the $8-million-plus project is being funded through a $5 million grant from IDOT along with another $1.6 million contribution from IDOT plus $600,000 from the St. Clair County Transit District; $300,000 from the Metro East Parks and Recreation District, and $150,000 in SWIC bond funds. Additional funding has been applied for through local grants.
It won't end there, Roach said. Already, a bridge for cyclists over Carlyle Avenue has been designed and approved with construction expected to start relatively soon. That project will allow access to the YMCA, Green Mount Commons and nearby residential subdivisions with the ultimate goal of extending the bike path to the Scott MetroLink station.
Is there a farming festival coming up in Amish country near Arcola? I seem to remember one every year but can't find it. -- G.D., Waterloo
Unfortunately, you missed last weekend's 43rd annual Broom Corn Festival, and this Saturday's Horse Plowing Day has literally dried up because of the weather.
So for a colorful fall excursion, you'll have to wait for the annual Harvest Festival Oct. 12-14 at Rockome Gardens near Arcola. For $10 ($8 seniors), you'll find old-time demonstrations and crafts, homemade apple butter and cider and, on the 13th, plenty of music by Mackville and The Coon Holler Kids.
For more area activities, try www.rockome.com or www.amishcountryofcentralil.com.
What was the first movie sequel to be released the same year as the original?
Answer to Wednesday's trivia: As a TV weatherperson, Elwood Edwards once reportedly told viewers in New Bern, N.C., "You've got hail!" But since 1989, the 63-year-old voice-over actor is best known for saying "You've got mail," "File's done" and "Goodbye" to anyone who logs on and off AOL. The Orrville, Ohio, resident also showed up as a virtual doctor on "The Simpsons" ("You've got leprosy!") as well as the ads for the 1998 movie "You've Got Mail."
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 239-2465.