If you have read this column very long you know that I’ve complained about the condition of Route 51 South (and North) for months. Route 51 South between Lake Decatur and Elwin is about as rough as I’ve ever seen major state roads to, from and through our city. Since I live on the south edge of Decatur and drive 51 South to and from the newspaper office each day, I checked with the Illinois Department of Transportation to find out when those of us who drive that road are going to get some relief from being “all shook up” every day.
I received this answer from IDOT’s Paul Wappel: “U.S. 51 North of Decatur from Forsyth to the DeWitt County line is included in the early years of the Fiscal Years 2022-2027 Multi-year Plan. U. S. 51 Southwest of Decatur to Shelby County line was resurfaced in 2020, so I believe you’re asking about Old Business 51 in Decatur. That project extends from Cleveland Ave to 1.9 mi south of Elwin Rd and is scheduled for the June 17, 2022 letting.”
Maybe there is light at the end of the bad highway tunnel. Bid letting is a step in the right direction. As some of you reading this column have pointed out to me, and I’ve experienced the “shock waves” myself, Route 48 heading southwest out of Decatur, is vying with Route 51 South for the “really bad highway” championship title. Repair and resurfacing work on state routes is taking place in segments.
I think a lot of people have forgotten, or didn’t know in the first place, that the City of Decatur took over the section of Route 51 that goes through the downtown area several years ago. That was a great idea because I remember all the meetings we had with IDOT anytime we wanted to make some downtown improvements. The state had the power to tell us what we could and could not do because it controlled the state route through town.
• SO, IF YOU are wondering why IDOT is bid letting the U.S. 51 South highway improvement, starting at Cleveland (a block north of Lake Decatur) south to Elwin, it’s because Cleveland Ave. is where the city’s control and responsibility for Route 51 South ends and the state’s control be-gins. I met with Decatur City Manager Scot Wrighton at the Tribune last week to talk about the condition of Route 51 and if there was a delay (as I was informed by a local community leader) because some redesign work had to be done on one stretch between Eldorado and Pershing. Wrighton told me that the city council had unanimously agreed that improvements to that part of the project be redesigned to improve the property values alongside it by putting more distance between the street and the houses, and to make the road more attractive through converting to 3-lanes. Although that redesign work had nothing to do with the Cleveland to Elwin part of the overall improvements, there was a delay in the near-north leg becasue of redesign work and IDOT’s seeming initial reluctance to move in the direction the city requested.
In fact, the City of Decatur spent a chunk of money ($25,000 if I remember correctly) to redesign the project so IDOT would move it along. Apparently, it took some help from elected representatives in our district to get the movement needed on getting the near-north part of the Route 51 project going forward. I asked the city manager if the redesign request of IDOT from the city could have also delayed the work on the Route 51 South leg between Cleveland and Elwin and he indicated that it may have, but he really couldn’t be certain that was the case. One thing is for certain: IDOT’s spokesperson told me the bids were going to be let June 17th — and that’s still in the beginning phase of the Fiscal Years 2022-2027 Multi-year Plan.
• IN CASE you’re wondering what is meant by “bid letting”, IDOT has stated: “Essentially, a letting is a five- or six-week period when road, bridge, aeronautics and various other construction projects are available for bidding. Contractors, subcontractors, materials suppliers and transportation industry groups may review and bid on the projects. The process is governed by strict statutory guidelines. Our schedule highlights important deadlines throughout the letting period. Significant stages of the letting process include: • Identifying projects in the advanced stages of design, along with funding and schedules for implementing them occurs with the transportation improvement programs. The first step in assigning projects to a specific letting.
The “Transportation Bulletin” is published and posted five weeks prior to the letting as an “Invitation for Bids” to the bidding public. Prequalification with IDOT is required for most projects. The prequalification “cut off” is the deadline for a bidder to submit a prequalification application. The joint venture cut off is the deadline for bidders to submit the “Certificate of Joint Venture.” Joint ventures allow prequalified contractors to combine their available bidding capacity and request authorization to bid for a single project together, pending departmental approval.
• The “Transportation Bulletin” is published and posted five weeks prior to the letting as an “Invitation for Bids” to the bidding public.
• Prequalification with IDOT is required for most projects. The prequalification “cut off” is the deadline for a bidder to submit a prequalification application.
• The joint venture cut off is the deadline for bidders to submit the “Certificate of Joint Venture.” Joint ventures allow prequalified contractors to combine their available bidding capacity and request authorization to bid for a single project together, pending departmental approval.
• To become authorized to bid on projects, bidders must submit the “Request for Authorization to Bid” and provide the “Affidavit of Availability” (for projects that require prequalification) on or before the cut-off date shown on the letting schedule.
• On letting day at noon, all sealed bids are opened publicly. A low bidder is identified, and the “As Accepted Tabulation of Bids” is posted to the website for public viewing. This final step also includes subsequent documentation reviews as the project award process begins and each project advances to on-site construction needs.”
There you have it. That’s what happens when IDOT mentions “bid letting”.
• LAST WEEK’s news that a leaked opinion draft shows the Supreme Court appears to be set on overturning Roe v. Wade in a future final decision. Suddenly, a new campaign tool was put in the election and re-election bids of many candidates. In the 13th Congressional District (which includes part of Macon County) the Democratic front runner, Nikki Budzinski immediately made the following statement: “I’m horrified and deeply saddened by the leaked US Supreme Court’s decision that shreds decades of progress for women in this country and our reproductive freedom. “My heart goes out to all the women who fearlessly fought for their right to keep government outside of our doctor appointments. To all the women who lost their lives because they didn’t have the right to a safe, legal abortion. And to all the American women who are scared right now because our rights are no longer protected.
“Today’s news is a reminder that our freedom is never guaranteed. We have to fight for our reproductive freedom and the stakes have never been higher. That’s why we can’t sit on the sidelines and this election cycle. “I pledge to stand for our reproductive rights and I will never back down. Join me.”
• IL 13 REPUBLICAN candidates Regan Deering and Jesse Reising made strong pro-life statements. Deering stated: “The unprecedented SCOTUS leak is a clear attempt to bully our Supreme Court Justices into changing their minds. Democrats know they’re on the losing end of the 2022 November midterms and are looking for absolutely anything to fire up their base. Talking about abortion is apparently easier for them than talking about our crumbling economy, record-high inflation, and Biden’s border crisis.
“I am not afraid to discuss either. I am proudly pro-life. “With Mother’s Day on the horizon, I am thankful for the gift of life. I am thankful for all my mothers: my birth mother, my adopted mother, and my stepmother, and the opportunity to be a mother to my husband Brian and I’s three beautiful children. Any woman facing an unplanned pregnancy needs our prayers and support. I hope that every effort can be made to protect and honor life as life is the most precious gift of all.”
• JESSE REISING stated: “As someone who has dedicated their career to upholding the law, I firmly believe that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and has always advocated for the Supreme Court to reexamine its reasoning and analysis. Unborn children are among the most vulnerable members of our society and deserve our protection.
“But, this leaked opinion is the highest breach of trust in the important relationship between a Judge and their clerks and staff. Having clerked for two federal judges in my career, I know all too well how crucial confidentiality is to the administration of justice.
“This appears to be a disgusting attempt by the left to bully the court and tarnish the institution. An immediate and thorough investigation must be conducted to restore the sanctity of the court’s decision making process.”
• NEWS on the SCOTUS draft regarding Roe v. Wade in the 15th Congressional Republican Primary race between Rodney Davis and Mary Miller also brought comments from the candidates. Davis stated: “As a Pro-Life lawmaker, I’ve long advocated for an end to the ‘Roe’ decision. It was wrong from the beginning, and I hope the Court’s pending decision empowers states to enact pro-Life laws and protect the unborn.
“I am deeply concerned by the fact this draft opinion was leaked. This is nothing more than an attempt to intimidate the justices on this case and sway their opinion. A leak of this magnitude must be condemned and, if warranted, investigated and prosecuted. Those on the Left who are cheering this lawless type of behavior are contributing to the undermining of our Nation’s institutions and civic processes. Please pray for the safety of the justices on our Supreme Court. “Democrats will use this moment to continue their push for a radical, pro-abortion agenda that’s far outside the mainstream. They are advocating for late-term and taxpayer-funded abortion, limits on parental involvement, restrictions on conscience objections, and more – nationwide, in all fifty states. Their extreme pro-abortion agenda is appalling and wrong. I will continue to oppose them every step of the way.”
• ALTHOUGH Mary Miller didn’t issue an extensive statement regarding Roe vs. Wade, following the SCOTUS leak, she did post on her Twitter account: “Our Justices need your prayers to stand up to the radical abortion industry and Defend Life!
“The unborn have no voice to speak for themselves, we march for them and tonight we must pray for them!”
Pro-Life is the standard among Republican candidates in the 13th and 15th Congressional District races which directly impact on representation for Decatur and Macon County.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. for the City Hall Insider every Thursday morning at 7:00. We discuss the candidates and issues impacting our city and area and I always enjoy the conversation.