The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is inviting the public to attend an open house at the Decatur Civic Center on Thursday, March 30, regarding future improvements to Main and Water streets from Eldorado Street to Pershing Road. The public is invited to stop by anytime between 4 and 7 p.m.
The purpose of the meeting is to allow the public the opportunity to learn more about the project by reviewing the proposed improvements and providing feedback on the proposals. Attendees will be able to learn more about the project through the exhibits, displays and fact sheets that will be available at the meeting. IDOT staff and consultants will be available to discuss the project and answer questions.
“It is important to determine the present needs of this area of Decatur and propose recommendations that will meet those needs,” said Jeff Myers, IDOT Region 4 Engineer. “As travel habits change, we at IDOT have to address those changes and provide safe paths of travel for all modes of traffic.”
To view meeting materials after the event or for more information or provide a comment electronically, visit the project website at: https://idot.click/route-51-study. Comments may also be mailed to: Illinois Department of Transportation, District 7 400 W. Wabash Ave. Effingham, IL 62401-2699 Attn: Matt Bower, P.E.
“The proposed $15 million project is possible by Gov. JB Pritzker’s historic and bipartisan Rebuild Illinois capital program. Over the next six years, IDOT is planning to improve more than 2,500 miles of highway and nearly 10 million square feet of bridge deck as part of the Rebuild Illinois capital program, which is investing $33.2 billion into all modes of transportation. Accomplishments through Year Three of Rebuild Illinois included approximately $8.6 billion of improvements statewide on 4,422 miles of highway, 412 bridges, and 621 additional safety improvements.”
For IDOT District 7 updates, follow them on Twitter at @IDOTDistrict7 or view area construction details on IDOT’s traveler information map on GettingAroundIllinois.com, or you can get an idea how work is progressing by driving on Route 51 from Pershing Road to Elwin.
New signage on Route 51 South indicates work on the road will start next week. That should be the stretch from Cleve-land Ave. to Elwin. I hope that’s true, but I’m still reserving the right to suggest renaming that rough road “Jerry Lee Lewis Highway” in honor of his song “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” —which describes driving Route 51 in the present condition of the road!
• LIGHTS OFF? I’ve written several times in this column about the crazy way some people have been driving since the Pandemic. They have no regard for speed limits, traffic signals and the Secretary of State’s “Rules of the Road” booklet is obviously not on their required reading list. Now, I’ve been noticing a new, crazy trend: people driving after dark with their headlights off! I don’t know if they forget to turn their vehicle’s lights on, or if it is some kind of new fad, but I’ve encountered more cars on the road after dark (also before light in the morning) without any lights on than I’ve ever seen! Apparently, these people are suffering from “light-headedness” (my new term) and don’t want any traffic or car lights on their way so they can safely reach their destination.
Let me ponder this: driving at a high rate of speed after dark without headlights (and taillights) on and claiming not to be suicidal. Message to no lights drivers: TURN ON YOUR VEHICLE’S LIGHTS when you are driving during the darkness of night!!! I hope this message has been “illuminating”!
• ENDORSEMENTS — How valuable are candidate endorsements in local elections? That’s hard to determine, especially in non-partisan elections such as school board and city council races. The process involved in endorsing candidates seems to have changed somewhat over the years. Twenty years ago when I was a candidate for my first term as mayor of Decatur, I was interviewed by various groups, along with my opponents, and was questioned about my background experience, platform and plans for the office.
I was also asked some questions about whether I would be supportive of some of the measures being pushed by particular organizations. Sometimes I agreed with what was being pushed, and sometimes I didn’t agree and said so. Overall, I always indicated that I would be willing to listen to any input on issues that would be facing me as mayor. Back then, there was usually an afternoon or evening that had been set aside to interview all of the candidates. — one at a time. I remember waiting a few times outside the room for another candidate to emerge from the “interview/ endorsement” sessions and I could usually tell by the look on his or her face how the interview went.
• THE “INTERVIEW” process has changed somewhat in recent years. Questionnaires only are now sent to candidates by more than a few groups to return with the candidate’s ans-wers without any personal interviews. A few groups still use both questionnaires and personal in-terviews but most do not. Part of the reason for a more “streamlined” process is a lack of personnel and time to conduct interviews and analyze the candidates before making endorsements. Many newspapers that once held public candidate forums no longer have the personnel to provide such services to the candidates — and the public.
Twenty years ago we had a mayoral forum at the civic center theatre and had good attendance. As I recall, it was produced by the Herald & Review and certainly gave the public an opportunity to see and listen to candidates for the mayor’s office. I enjoyed, as a candidate, participating in that forum and others that were held that year by local organizations — including the Regional Chamber of Commerce. Public appearances, forums and endorsements all played important roles in my campaign for office and I fear that such scrutiny of candidates has been weakened in recent years along with citizen interest in the office and a public turned off by the constant stream of negative politics.
• SOME endorsements of candidates in the upcoming April 4th election have been made without organizations actually interviewing every candidate involved in races for city council and school board. I’ve had both endorsed and non-endorsed candidates tell me that the group, or anyone from the group, never actually interviewed them before endorsements were made. Some were not even sent questionnaires. I’m not going to judge the credibility of any endorsement, or lack of an endorsement, but the process is definitely different than it was 20 years ago and I think the endorsement value is not as significant these days for that reason.
At least, that’s my opinion — and you don’t have to “endorse” that opinion. See you next week.
• MY “VIEWPOINT” column in this week’s print and online editions of the Decatur Tribune reflects on the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Decatur 20 years ago and why it bring special memories to me.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider to discuss the issues confronting Decatur and Central Illinois.