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Peoria City Council moves ahead with funding match for passenger rail study

Tim Shelley

The Peoria City Council has approved a grant application requesting $2.5 million from the federal government to go toward the initial stage of planning for the city's passenger rail project.

This would require a 20% match. The Illinois Department of Transportation would provide half of the match, and the City of Peoria would provide the other half. The city's share comes out to about $250,000 for the initial stage of research and development.

At-large council member John Kelly has a more pessimistic view of the railway project.

“I’m inclined to vote against it,” he said at Tuesday's city council meeting. “I think that this may ultimately have the same result that the (Peoria) Rocket had…we just won’t be able to put enough passengers on there.”

“Over the last couple of generations,” he said, “Amtrak ridership has dropped precipitously. And I don’t know (if) we are going to buck that trend.”

But at-large counci lmember Sid Ruckriegel expressed great enthusiasm for the project.

“We’ve seen that there’s really overwhelming community support for us to proceed. In that community support, we saw support for this across all age demographics and across all zip codes throughout our city,” he said.

“If we don’t invest the time and the energy to make something happen, then nothing ever changes … if we don’t try, we’ll never get (it)."

City Manager Patrick Urich estimates the project will cost around $2 billion total, with about $850,000, at most, coming from local coffers. Financial grants are still in the works, leaving the exact distribution of state versus local expenses up in the air.

Recreational marijuana policy- public opinion updates

After weeks of discussions, meetings, and surveys, the opinion of Peoria locals is in.

The majority of survey respondents (68%) voted against capping the number of licenses for cannabis dispensaries. They also voted 69% against increased zoning regulations, in favor (61%) of on-site consumption facilities, and in favor (62%) of addressing the current ordinance to address social equity applicants.

Overall, the results showed that two-thirds of Peoria is against increasing restrictions on recreational marijuana.

The results will help guide the council in decision-making come January 2023, but some members remain firmly grounded against the expressed public opinion in the survey.

“I am totally opposed to on-site consumption. Period,” said council member Tim Riggenbach. “I would like to see that, if not in the ordinance, then at least allow us to vote on it separately.”

“What I heard around the horseshoe is that the majority is opposed to on-site consumption,” Mayor Rita Ali commented. “Perhaps that will change down the road, but the feedback that I received (from council members) is that we are not ready to move forward with (it). So I would also want that ordinance to be adjusted.”

Childers banquet space coming to Gateway Building

In another matter, the council approved leasing space in the city-owned Gateway Building to Childers Eatery.

The local restaurant will be moving an additional banquet space into the third floor of the Riverfront building.

“This move will allow us to more fully utilize assets that belong to our taxpayers,” said 2nd District Council member Chuck Grayeb. “We’re making a lot of repairs to it, and in essence, are getting the building developed by a family whose name I think all of us heard if we’ve been in the Peoria area for very long.”

“I think we’ve all seen the positive impact that the Childers family has had all over the city of Peoria, from University Street, to Junction City, to Grand Prairie, and now, downtown…thank you for your commitment to the city of Peoria — staying here, investing here, and continuing to improve the restaurant scene in our community,” added council member Zach Oyler.

The entire council supported the Gateway proposal.