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$3M state grant will fund second phase of major Wisconsin Avenue reconstruction

A recent view south down Wisconsin Avenue near the intersection with E. Thrush Ave., not far from Glen Oak Community Learning Center.
Tim Shelley
A recent view south down Wisconsin Avenue near the intersection with East Thrush Avenue, not far from Glen Oak Community Learning Center.

Wisconsin Avenue is set for a major overhaul in the upcoming year.

A $3 million Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets program grant to Peoria Public Works is extending the scope of that work, originally concentrated from Forrest Hill to McClure Avenue, down to Nebraska Avenue.

A group of about 25 people recently conducted a walk audit of Wisconsin Avenue.

Nick McMillion with Peoria Public Works said Wisconsin is a "unique road" presenting its own challenges.

"Mainly what we heard from that from that walkout, it was better sidewalks or or more continuous sidewalks," McMillion said.

He said many students walk to Von Steuben Middle School or Glen Oak Community Learning Center, and a lack of consistent sidewalks means, sometimes, students are forced to walk in the street. The sidewalks also are a challenge for patients at the Heartland Health Services clinic in the former Kroger plaza.

"After sidewalks, we heard concerns that speeding was an issue up and down Wisconsin," said McMillion. "So, we're looking at different traffic calming devices or designs that we could use, and also parking as well."

Some stretches of Wisconsin have street parking, while others do not. The same goes for sidewalks and bike lanes.

Utility poles embedded in the sidewalks on the west side of the roadway are a design challenge. A few different reconfigurations are under consideration, including moving street parking and sidewalks to the west side while shifting a multi-use path to the east; moving parking west while moving the sidewalk and shared-use path to the east side of the road; or maintaining the existing parking layout, moving a sidewalk to the west side, and a shared-use path to the east side.

Raised pedestrian crossings with flashing pedestrian signals at Corrington and Gift also are possibilities.

McMillion said improved street lighting is an aspect the city is closely eyeing, too.

"I don't want to say it's a forgotten aspect when you're talking about rebuilding a road, but it's something that can get lost in the back of people's mind that, hey, lighting is probably just as important, as the different road concepts and design, because it's a safety feature," he said.

McMillion said the ultimate hope is that an improved Wisconsin Avenue configuration could spur business and residential growth along the East Bluff corridor.

"It is a very vital part to the city. And ultimately, if we can create a design that works for everyone or meets the majority of people's needs, what they're wanting, ultimately, we can kind of revitalize that area," he said.

Bidding is slated for this winter, with construction anticipated in the spring and summer of 2023.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.