BLOOMINGTON — McLean County Board Chairman Matt Sorensen called for more vocal support from businesses for construction of an east-side highway.
“The project needs the support of the local business community,” Sorensen told those attending the McLean County Chamber of Commerce’s State of McLean County meeting Thursday morning.
Charlie Moore, president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said after the meeting that the chamber’s board has had discussions on the highway project, but has not taken a stand on it.
“We endorsed the further study” of the project, Moore said, including the needs assessment. He expects the matter to return to the board as it progresses.
Sorensen told the gathering that, while there is room for debate on where the highway should go and how many lanes it should have, “in my opinion, there is no room for debate on the need. The need is there.”
He said, “We’re not looking at a solution to a problem in 2012. We’re looking at a project to solve a problem in 2040 and beyond.”
Also speaking at the event were Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton and Normal Mayor Chris Koos, who gave generally upbeat assessments of their cities emerging from the recession.
Sorensen was a bit more pessimistic, noting that county government does not have the same resources — such as sales tax revenue — that Bloomington and Normal have as home-rule cities. Instead, county government relies primarily on real estate taxes and, “for the first time since 1985, overall assessed valuation is going down in the county,” he said.
Stockton pointed positively to progress being made with road resurfacing and other infrastructure improvement in Bloomington.
Looking forward, Stockton said it’s important to add wells to diversify and expand the city’s water system, which the mayor described as “essentially a regional system” that already supplies water to Hudson, Towanda, parts of Bloomington Township and larger users in Normal, such as Mitsubishi Motors North America and AdvocateBroMenn Regional Medical Center.
Koos cited a “healthy increase” in construction activity among signs that Normal is recovering from the recession.
He said improvements in uptown Normal have “been more than we hoped for” and called the projects “another example of the community working on a common cause for the common good.”
Koos said the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center is doing better than expected and the Uptown Crossing building, anchored by CVS, just filled its last vacancy.