Metro-East News

Fairview Heights says $850,000 landscaping project by I-64 needs work

The area near the westbound on-ramp of the Interstate 64 and Illinois 159 exchange in Fariview Heights on Thursday.
The area near the westbound on-ramp of the Interstate 64 and Illinois 159 exchange in Fariview Heights on Thursday. News-Democrat

Fairview Heights officials aren’t happy with the $850,000 in landscaping that was planted and installed more than two years ago at the interchange of Interstate 64 and Illinois 159, but they’re hoping some mowing and replanting will fix it up in short order.

City officials and the contractor blame the weather for hampering the trees and prairie grass planted at the site. Some of the new trees that were planted have died, and the prairie grass has been slow to grow, said Fairview Heights Director of Public Works John Harty, leaving city administrators looking to improve appearances.

“We’re not pleased with the results,” Harty said.

The city has decided to mow the prairie grass after the first frost, following the completion of the state’s contract on the project, which is anticipated within the next couple of weeks. Harty said that should help the prairie grass grow next spring.

“We’re going to mow the prairie grass down that exists now between the highway and fence to establish a nicely mowed, green turf,” he said.

Most of the landscaping was funded by a $680,000 federal enhancement grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The city contributed $170,000.

The federal funding was spent on the trees and prairie grasses that were planted in May 2013. The city’s contribution was used to purchase and install stone retaining walls at the interchange and black vinyl-coated fencing that was erected along both sides of the interstate, extending from Ruby Lane to Old Collinsville Road.

Horticulturalists have told us it typically takes two to three years for those to take root and start growing. We had a very wet start to the spring and a very dry summer, so it hasn’t come in as quickly as we thought.

Mark Kupsky, Fairview Heights Mayor

Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky said the new landscaping, especially the prairie grass, needs more time to grow.

“Horticulturalists have told us it typically takes two to three years for those to take root and start growing,” Kupsky said. “We had a very wet start to the spring and a very dry summer, so it hasn’t come in as quickly as we thought.”

The project is still under the responsibility of the contractor, Mayer Landscaping Inc. in Belleville, which has a contract through the state. The state conducted the bidding for the project and managed the grant-application process.

Mayer Landscaping President Stacie Mueller Mayer said severe cold weather and large quantities of road salt that were scattered along the corridor during the winter hurt the trees and grass. She said the remaining trees and prairie grass still need more time to flourish.

“The weather has definitely been a factor, and that will take more time to manifest,” Mayer said. “The project is still under construction, and we are still in the process of finishing some of that work.”

Kupsky said the contractor plans some trimming and a final mow before the contract is completed. At that point, the city will take over responsibility of the site.

Besides the herbicide and constant weeding, the maintenance costs will be relatively neutral. I think the stakeholders and anyone along the corridor will probably like this plan better.

John Harty, Fairview Heights Public Works Director

The work to be done to further enhance the landscaping will not come at any extra cost, Harty said, and will not affect the city’s annual maintenance budget.

“Besides the herbicide and constant weeding, the maintenance costs will be relatively neutral,” he said. “I think the stakeholders and anyone along the corridor will probably like this plan better.”

Kupsky said continuing to nurture and improve the green space is a high priority for him.

“It’s the doorway to our city,” he said. “We certainly want to get it cleaned up because to some people, it just looks like it’s overgrown and there are weeds. And that’s really not the case.”

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