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LaHood, Peoria Heights leaders tout $2M in federal funding for Prospect Road reconstruction

Joe Deacon
Mayor Mike Phelan listens as U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, announces $2 million in federal funding for the first phase of a reconstruction project along Prospect Road in Peoria Heights.

A $2 million contribution of federal money will jump start plans to reconstruct a stretch of Prospect Road in Peoria Heights.

“I can tell you definitively that the money that we're bringing back here is going to help to produce more economic opportunity here, more restaurants, more people moving here,” U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said Thursday during a news conference at Tower Park. “That's going to create more tax growth and more opportunity for people to live and thrive and prosper here in Peoria Heights.”

The plan calls for road, sidewalk, and sewer system upgrades along the stretch of Prospect between War Memorial Drive and Glen Avenue. The initial federal funding will go toward Phase One of what’s expected to be a three-phase project that could cost up to $20 million and take at least five years to complete.

“Phase One is conceptual engineering, going through all the federal studies that are required for a project of this type,” said Peoria Heights Community Development Director Wayne Aldrich. “Then there is a Phase Two that covers the actual plan preparation and specifications, then Phase Three is construction.

“Phase One can take about a year to year and a half on typical projects, and then Phase Two we anticipate about a year. So at that schedule, it would be like 2026 before construction would start, and that depends on other funding sources.”

Peoria Heights Mayor Mike Phelan said the project is part of the village’s comprehensive plan and strategic goals to enhance the “ACE” corridor emphasizing arts, culinary and entertainment.

“I really believe that the heart of a community is in its downtown area,” said Phelan, calling the project vitally important. “It will improve the quality of life, it will generate more sales tax revenue, make a better downtown, (and) make the road more safe and accessible.”

LaHood credited a combined effort by village, county, state, and federal leaders for helping secure the grant money for the project.

“With these community funding projects, it's not the intent of the law to have it all funded by the federal government,” said LaHood. “It has to be collaboration; there has to be input at every level, and that's really what this is all about collaboration.”

Later, LaHood clarified his involvement in funding the project, acknowledging he voted against the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that provided the funding after advocating for inclusion of the Peoria Heights project in the legislation.

“Peoria Heights came to me as this being a community funding project, so I submitted it as a project that I wanted. I submitted the $2 million (and) it went through the appropriations process, got that secured through the appropriations process and initially voted for that on when it was part of the appropriations bill,” LaHood told WCBU.

“What happened is, at the end of the year, it was put into a larger bill that many of the things in that bill I couldn't agree with because it added to deficit spending. So while I supported it in the (original) package, when it was lumped in with many other things I couldn't support the larger picture. But obviously I advocated for it, I'm the one that wrote the community funding project to have it included, and supported it in the appropriations process.”

Phelan said the project also ties in with the village’s desire to capitalize on the Rock Island Trail.

“That generates a whole lot of business for the community, so hopefully this will also help us accomplish one of our goals to have a trail head along Prospect,” he said. “We want people to come here to Peoria Heights, spend the day, get on the trail, come back and off the trail. So that crossing along prospect is going to be a real interesting and busy crossing.”

Aldrich said while many aspects of the project are still in planning stages, they plan to incorporate a “complete streets” concept.

“That's kind of a term that we use, which really means a design that's meant for everyone,” he said. “Traditionally in the transportation industry, we’ve dwelt on moving cars and trucks. Now, we're thinking more about pedestrians, bikes, mass transit; all those modes of transportation are very important to us. So, this project will be done in under those guidelines.”

Aldrich said the Phase One studies also will explore any possible lane reconfigurations and how they might impact traffic flow.

“That's not a foregone conclusion at this point, to make what (currently) in many cases is a five-lane section, do you take that down to two traffic lanes? The traffic analysis will be performed during this phase to confirm what people think may happen,” he said.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.