Metro-East News

Engineering work planned for Lebanon bypass; traffic signal coming

Truck traffic is heavy through downtown Lebanon at the intersection of Illinois 4 and U.S. 50. A bypass would take truck traffic away from the congested intersection.
Truck traffic is heavy through downtown Lebanon at the intersection of Illinois 4 and U.S. 50. A bypass would take truck traffic away from the congested intersection. News-Democrat

Watching from behind the counter at the Subway restaurant along Illinois 4 in Lebanon, Lauren Nadler regularly sees traffic back up south of the U.S. 50 intersection.

“It’s a pretty rare occasion when there’s nobody out there waiting in line at the intersection,” Nadler said.

Adding a traffic signal to help traffic move more efficiently would be helpful, Nadler said.

“Sometimes I have a hard time getting out onto this road at night because the line is so long,” she said.

During the summer, the U.S. 50 and Illinois 4 intersection in Lebanon is set to be widened and a traffic signal added, to help move traffic in a more efficient manner through what is now a four-way stop.

The $839,000 project will be paid for by state and federal money, said Lebanon Mayor Rich Wilken.

For some, however, another improvement — a proposed Lebanon Route 50 bypass south of town — is necessary to help with traffic in the area.

As part of a five-year highway improvement program, the Illinois Department of Transportation plans to do additional engineering work for the proposed Lebanon Bypass.

IDOT plans to spend $1.5 million for engineering work for the long-discussed bypass. There would be an additional $1.1 million spent on engineering in later years under the five-year plan.

IDOT does own 99 percent of the land needed for that project, but money for building the bypass has never been allocated, said Jeff Keirn, engineer for IDOT Region 5, which includes Madison and St. Clair counties.

Keirn said the timetable for the project will depend on funding and weighing the project against other needs in the area.

“In two years we’ll have a set of plans that are in good shape,” Keirn said. “If funding is available, we can go to construction.”

There is no current cost estimate for the project, and it will depend on the number of lanes for the bypass, among other things, Keirn said.

In 2010, IDOT estimated the work would be $34.5 million for a two-lane bypass, and $65 million for a four-lane bypass.

IDOT’s five-year highway program also includes details of planned construction work and engineering for future work.

In St. Clair County, $43.5 million worth of work is planned on 11.26 miles of roadway during the 2016 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

IDOT plans to spend $14.2 million in Madison County during fiscal 2016. About 13.5 miles of road will see work.

Funding for the projects still needs to be approved by the General Assembly as part of the budget process, said Guy Tridgell, IDOT spokesman.

Statewide, IDOT is planning an average of $1.4 billion of work each year from fiscal 2016 through fiscal 2021.

“While this latest multi-year program will have a positive impact on many of our communities, it also underscores the urgency to find a long-term, sustainable solution for our infrastructure needs,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. “Just maintaining our existing system will be a challenge, with the ability to take on any new projects extremely difficult.”

An additional $86.2 million of work in St. Clair County and $176.7 million of work in Madison County is planned to take place between the 2017 and 2021 fiscal years, according to the five-year program.

“What’s in the multi-year plan is based on available funding,” Keirn said. “It’s based on what we know today.”

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, has been a proponent of building the bypass to help eliminate the traffic bottleneck.

He said federal legislators are aware of the proposed road, and added he’s not sure when the state will be in the financial position to pay for the road.

“When the state is in the position to do something, (the bypass) will rank near the top, if not the top,” McCarter said.

McCarter said the planned traffic signal would help at the current intersection, but it’s not the “cure” for the traffic issues.

“If it could manage the traffic a little better, I think it’s a good thing,” McCarter said.

He added, “The bypass needs to get done.”

As for the here and now, the state plans to do engineering work for the bypass, and carry out intersection work at Illinois 4 and U.S. 50.

“(You) have to do the best you can with what they give,” Mayor Wilken said.

Wilken added the intersection project will allow the city to reinvent the area.

“The idea is to clean up East St. Louis Street, and look down the road, take the intersection and make it into a grand entrance way,” Wilken said.

Wilken said when the intersection project was being debated, there was concern that land would be taken away from historic properties.

However, according to Illinois Historic Preservation Agency spokesman Chris Wills, “there will be no adverse impact to historic resources.”

The city plans to make up for lost street parking by tearing down a condemned building to make way for a parking lot, Wilken said.

For Wilken, however, building a bypass would be the most helpful for town.

Wilken said he believes a bypass to get truck traffic and through-traffic away from town will be helpful, as most of the traffic in Lebanon is not people who are stopping in town.

“Some people don’t go downtown because it’s too hectic,” Wilken said.

“I think (a bypass) will enhance business,” Wilken said.

Jeanette Materkowski, who works at Ahner’s Florist and lives in New Baden, has to deal with traffic backups in the afternoon when going home.

“You usually have to wait to get out onto (St. Louis Street).. and then you wait at the intersection to turn right to go south on Route 4,” Materkowski said.

She said a traffic signal would help move traffic more efficiently.

Materkowski also said she didn’t think a bypass would affect the businesses in town, as most people who come to town are there for events such as ones at McKendree University.

“I don’t know if most people driving down Route 4 say, ‘Oh, let’s stop in Lebanon,’” Materkowski said.

Janet Schmitt, the owner of Legendary Creations in the downtown area, and who lives south of town, said she would prefer that improvements stop with a traffic signal.

“I think it will help, it’s not going to fix the problem, but it will help,” Schmitt said.

She said she is afraid a bypass would be a detriment to the businesses in town.

“I’ve seen bypasses hurt a lot of towns on a business side,” Schmitt said.

Even though her store doesn’t rely on people stopping in as they pass through town, “you never know when they’re going to come through,” Schmitt said.

Paul Dontigney, who owns Hangar 18 Guitar Repair, said a traffic signal would help, even though the construction will be inconvenient when it takes place.

“Once it’s set, and everything flows a little better, it might actually help, just because of the fact that some people find that traffic (stop) to be kind of a pain, especially when there’s a line of traffic, up and down Route 4,” Dontigney said.

Instead of having a bypass, he actually would like to see U.S. 50 go through the downtown.

“Yes it would take out the historic aspect, but in my personal opinion…. If you’ve got a main highway in front of the store, it would be no different from O’Fallon,” Dontigney said.

Contact reporter Joseph Bustos at jbustos@bnd.com or 618-239-2451. Follow him on Twitter: @JoeBReporter.

Notable 2016 fiscal year proposed IDOT projects

▪  Resurfacing of 6.5 miles of I-64 from Illinois 157 to just west of Green Mount Road at a cost of $8.6 million.

▪  Resurfacing and shoulder reconstruction of Illinois 157 from Illinois 140 in Hamel to Illinois 143 in Edwardsville for $4.8 million.

▪  Resurfacing of Illinois 156 from Illinois 159 to Illinois 13 in a $1.7 million project in St. Clair County.

▪  Spending $10,000 in the 2016 fiscal year and $20,000 in later years for land acquisition related to the possible Gateway Connector.

▪  Reconstruction of Cargill Elevator Road from Illinois 3 to the Mississippi River Barge Dock for $1.7 million.

▪  Extension of Frank Scott Parkway from Cross Street in Shiloh to Illinois 158, for $6.8 million.

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