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Peoria receives $1.2M grant for Western Avenue project upgrades

Tory Dahlhoff / WCBU

Peoria is getting a significant financial boost for the next phase of the Western Avenue improvement project.

The city announced this week it has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to fund streetscape upgrades.

“The improvements that this money is going to fund are pedestrian accommodations, so improving the sidewalks, improving the ADA ramps at the corners,” said city engineer Andrea Klopfenstein. “There's also some retaining walls that we have; there will also be some bike path improvements and there’s lighting and some wayfinding signage.

“So it's going to help basically with people that are walking and biking in the corridor.”

The money is part of the Rebuild Distressed Communities (RDC) grant program offered through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Recipients of funding from the $9.2 million grant pool were chosen by the State of Illinois, along with Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago and the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

Mayor Rita Ali said the city appreciates the financial assistance and called the project a “much-needed infrastructure improvement for the city’s south side that we hope will be a catalyst to attract business growth and more residents back into the 61605 zip code.”

Phase 1 of the $12.6 million Western Avenue project, covering the section of the corridor between Howett and Malone, was completed last month. Klopfenstein said work of Phase 2, from Malone to Adams, will begin in the spring.

“Anytime we can improve infrastructure, especially adding ‘complete streets’ elements – and this one also included ‘green streets’ elements – is a benefit to the area,” said Klopfenstein. “This is really a great infrastructure project and we're very excited to see it happen.”

State Sen. Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, said improvements to the Western Avenue corridor will refresh the south side and increase economic opportunities in the area.

“When our local businesses thrive, our community thrives,” Koehler said in a news release. “This funding will help bring energy and life back to the parts of our city that are hurting most.”

Klopfenstein said the RDC grant money only covers the Phase 2 streetscape costs.

“Because of the timing of how the grant worked and that the project was already underway, it couldn't be used for past work,” she said. “We had lots of different funds went into the project. This just helps us to relieve some of the burden on the city expenses.”

Klopfenstein said that although the Phase 1 section has reopened, its too soon to tell how much of an impact the upgrades have made so far.

“It’s hard to get good gauge during construction because it's very difficult on the people who live and work and have businesses in the area,” she said. “But we're hoping that when we are done, the hopefully minor impacts to them during construction will be more than offset by having all this new infrastructure.”

Klopfenstein said the city is pursuing additional funding opportunities for other infrastructure projects, recently submitting a grant application for a planned $12.5 million renovation of Wisconsin Avenue in the East Bluff.

“We would love to get grant money if there's anything out there for us because, combined with city dollars, it really expands the ability for us to do some more work,” Klopfenstein said.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.