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IDOT is eying a potential Peoria-Bloomington public transit service

This December 2020 file photo takes a look at the Fayette St. on-ramp to eastbound Interstate 74 in downtown Peoria. The Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to study the feasibility of an express bus service running between Peoria and Bloomington.
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU
This December 2020 file photo takes a look at the Fayette St. on-ramp to eastbound Interstate 74 in downtown Peoria. The Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to study the feasibility of an express bus service running between Peoria and Bloomington.

The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to know if an express bus service between Peoria and Bloomington is a realistic prospect.

A $1.2 million federal RAISE grant will allow IDOT to study the feasibility of connecting the two communities via public transit along the I-74 corridor. That analysis will look at several factors, including the potential route, frequency of buses, schedules and costs.

The funding is winning the praises of the likes of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, and Congressmen Darin LaHood and Eric Sorensen. The lawmakers say the bus service could be a major economic boon for the regions, which lie about 40 miles apart.

Reema Abi-Akar is a senior planner with the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission, which isn't involved with the study.

Though Peoria is advocating for its own passenger rail route to Chicago, Normal currently touts the closest available Amtrak link, and that will remain true for at least the next several years as the Peoria plan moves through a cumbersome regulatory process.

"That is a big conversation happening, but definitely it's lacking in Peoria," Abi-Akar said. "So any sort of study that can show us different options for how we can move forward and give folks more accessibility to public transportation, it's only a good thing."

Private operators like Peoria Charter Coach offer their own Peoria/Bloomington routes already, but a public option would provide another avenue for moving from point A to point B, or vice versa.

The route would likely provide new links to major regional employers like Caterpillar, Rivian, and OSF HealthCare, as well as higher learning institutions like Bradley University and Illinois State University.

The study is also looking at bringing bus service to Morton and Goodfield, communities that currently lack public transit options.

"That would fill a really important gap. So it's hard to understand what is lacking until, sometimes, until you actually fill a gap," she said. "But when you talk to different folks in different populations that actually can't drive and are just doing their best getting rides from others, there's not really another opportunity if you cannot drive."

The study is set to begin in late 2025, and will take around two years to complete.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.