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The Clay County Advocate - Press-Flora, IL
  • Illinois Department of Transportation, Route 50 Coalition, wrapping up negotiations

  • Monday afternoon officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Hutchison Engineering, out of Jacksonville, Ill., were hammering out the final language for an agreement that, once finished, will mark the start of engineering and studies along the U.S. Route 50 corridor.Sherry Phillips, with th...
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  • Monday afternoon officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation and Hutchison Engineering, out of Jacksonville, Ill., were hammering out the final language for an agreement that, once finished, will mark the start of engineering and studies along the U.S. Route 50 corridor.
    Sherry Phillips, with the Illinois Department of Transportation, said that the negotiations were nearly complete.
    “We have to go through the man hours for the next 30 months,” Phillips said. “Hopefully, it will be tidy up soon thereafter. We probably have another month of paperwork after that.”
    Once that paperwork is done Hutchison will be able to begin the study, thanks to a procedure that IDOT uses to expedite such projects.
    “They have an early start option. The agreement has to go all the way to the Secretary for his signature, if we wait for that it is several months,” Phillips said. “They can take a portion of the money and start working before it is signed, we do that quit often.”
    Once they begin does not necessarily mean people will begin seeing crews along Route 50.
    “That means they will probably begin data collection and survey work, there really won’t be really public involvement yet,” Phillips said.
    The data collection is a process where the firm will get a feel for what they will be working with and where things are located.
    While the public involvement will not be asked for right away, plans for getting the information out there will be worked on at the same time.
    Data collection looking at the job getting a feel for where things are at.
    “One of the first things we will is come up with a plan for public involvement, it will identify some key stake holders,” Phillips said. “That will be something people will be seeing in the next few months.”
    That will include things such as determining how IDOT will get out the message to residents along the corridor about how they are proceeding with the project.
    Another aspect of the project that will be moving forward soon is the environmental survey request.
    “The Environmental survey request will go in soon, that will kick off a lot of our biologists and archeologists,” Phillips said. “A lot of that is done on database searches in the office. They won’t go out to field unless they see something they want to check.”
    The archeological side is pretty cut and dry.
    “The archeological stuff won’t change from year to year, artifacts don’t just show up,” Phillips said.
    She also said that the IDOT staff archeologists are very good at know the history that might lead to further investigations.
    “We were working on a project and found an area of interest that was related to Native American culture,” Phillips said. “They told us that it was a hunting camp because of where it was located.”
    Page 2 of 2 - One of the areas that might have to be looked at more closely would be for endangered species.
    “The one that does change is the endangered species,” Phillips said. “Just because they weren’t there the last time we looked doesn’t mean they won’t be there now.”
    The Illinois Geological Survey is in charge of that piece of the puzzle.
    Phillips said that the work that is taking place now, while necessary, seems to be time consuming.
    “This is the hardest part right now, it is slow work and it bogs you down.” Phillips said.
    But once the pieces are into place it will mark the beginning of a two-and-a-half to five year process of research and design on the roadway.
    The environmental study is slated to take 30 months and the alignment and design study another 25 months for a total of 54 months.
    Along with Hutchison, CH2MHill out of Chicago will be working on the environmental study and another partner in the project is Lin Engineering out of Chatham, Ill.
    The official selection of Hutchison was made Sept. 7 by IDOT.
    The U.S. Route 50 Coalition, which has spearheaded the regions push to put Route 50 back at the for front of infrastructure programs, is pleased with the results so far.
    “The question is how much further are going to be able to go in the next several years,” said Coalition President Trevor Bissey. “We need people to get behind this project and let people in Springfield and Washington know that this is the most important economic development opportunity this region can be given. It doesn’t matter whether you live in Lawrenceville, Clay City or Salem this project has huge implications down the road.”
    Bissey is encouraging people to let their lawmakers know about their support for the project by calling them or talking to them.
     

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