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DOWNS — Engineers have come up with four ways to make travel easier for commuters using Downs as a shortcut to Interstate 74 while making it safer for the people in the village.

The Farnsworth Group's recently completed feasibility study also fits with a broader concept for an east-side bypass connecting I-55 near Towanda to I-74 near Downs. Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton recently told Illinois Department of Transportation officials the city is committed to working with Normal and McLean County to see that a highway or access road is built on the east side of Bloomington.

Downs Mayor Jeff Schwartz pushed for the Farnsworth study to find alternatives for commuters who take U.S. 150 to Seminary Street and down to I-74.

Seminary Street, the village's main street, carries an average daily traffic of 9,600 cars, according to the traffic count done by The Farnsworth Group. To Schwartz, that's a lot of cars for the small but growing village with fewer than 800 residents.

That growth also could add to the traffic problem.

"If the growth stops, then maybe we won't need to do anything, but all indications are that people are still coming," Schwartz said. "At some point we need to do something to handle that growth."

What is done in Downs could address commuter traffic for the next 10 to 15 years or so.

The proposed east-side highway may not be completed for another 15 to 20 years, according to one county estimate.

Also, Farnsworth engineer Don Rutledge said the firm looked for cost-effective interim solutions that could eventually become an access road to a proposed east-side highway.

"As we present this report, we are offering it as regional and local solutions to traffic and not just for the village," Rutledge said.

The four options offered for consideration are:

w Build nothing and leave traffic as is.

w Re-route traffic to County Highway 29 (Towanda Barnes Road), send it over Interstate 74 to County Highway 36 south of I-74 and connect it to I-74 at the existing Downs exit.

w Add an interchange at County Highway 29 and I-74.

w Upgrade U.S. 150 and Seminary Street.

The results of the study will be open to public comment early next year, Schwartz said.

The cost estimates on the four options have not been finalized, but they would be available in time for the public to comment, Rutledge said.

"Any money spent on these solutions will be a compliment to a long-range plan that will fit into providing better access on the east side," Rutledge said.

A study to determine the best corridor for the east-side highway is being planned, but it will be years before one is built.

A federal grant for $800,000 will go to pay for that corridor study. That will let planners protect the corridor from developers looking to build homes and businesses on the east side.

Stockton told IDOT representatives Friday during the McLean County Transportation Study meeting that the city may be willing to help pay for some of the shortfall between the cost of the study and the grant.

"I think we are all very united in this. If we are going to grow we will need this (highway)," Stockton said. "Because of the urgency, I think we'd be willing to contribute to the study."

Stockton said the city is seeing a great deal of growth pressure on the east side. The city has annexed 1,500 home sites in the last three months. Stockton described the road more as an access route for residents instead of a bypass.


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