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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

City Of Rockford Plans For A New Multi-Use Pathway On Highcrest Road

Connie Kuntz

Rockford could have a new multi-use path connecting the city's west and east sides by the fall of 2022. City of Rockford Traffic Engineer Jeremy Carter says the new path would take up 2.7 miles, much of it along Highcrest Road. 

"It would start over by Jacoby Place on Spring Creek Road, continue east along Spring Creek and connect with an existing project that we're in design for which is bringing a sidewalk down Parkview," he said. "The multi-use path would continue east to head up Highcrest Road on the south side of the road all the way over to Alpine Road."

Carter said the project would then transition to "on-street facilities."

There, he said, it would be "a shared route where we would have symbols on the road reminding people that they're sharing the road with bicyclists."

The path would continue around Edgebrook Shopping Center and connect with Spring Brook Avenue where Carter said it would "head north and connect with Spring Brook Road." 

Carter continued, "From Spring Brook Road, there are bike lanes that allow access to Rock Valley College and out to the Perryville Path out east." 

Originally, the City of Rockford looked into using Spring Creek Road for a multi-use pathway, but Carter said after conducting a feasibility study, putting the path on Highcrest, which has an estimated cost of $2 million, made more sense.

"The Spring Creek Road project was cost prohibitive at an estimated $4.3 million," he said, "and didn't really include a lot of right-of-way.'' 

Carter explained what "right of way" means.

"Right-of-way is property that is owned for putting in infrastructure," he said. "It could be roads, it actually could be railroads; it's property that's already reserved for doing something with the road."

Carter said when you expand a road, you often have to go to the adjacent property owners to acquire more right-of-way. 

In the case of Highcrest Road, Carter said, "There is already a very wide right-of-way that someone in the past decided we should have for future improvements."

Besides having a considerable amount of right-of-way, Carter said Highcrest is considered a "minor arterial." An example of a "major arterial" is Rockford's State Street.

"Much like our circulatory system," he said, "arterials are the bigger veins -- the roads that have higher traffic."

As such, there are concerns about safety along the minor arterial. Highcrest can be busy, and sometimes motorists ignore the 25 and 30 mph speed limits. But Carter said he does not consider Highcrest to be unsafe.  

"I know that there are issues on any street where you have many cars," he said. "There are possibilities that occasionally someone is going to lose control and end up in somebody's yard. But I don't know that it happens with any more frequency than on any other road."

Carter continued.

"The thing that has just been confusing to me is people saying, 'Well, this road is unsafe,'" he said, "but yet they have concerns about providing accomodations for pedestrians and bicyclists that will be safer than what currently exists."

Still, Carter expressed appreciation for public input and talked about some of the reasons the City has a bikeway implementation plan.

"It's just the way cities operate now. This is a feature many cities are putting in because their citizens demand it," he said. "Providing bike accomodation so people can ride to the river or ride to get their groceries is something I grabbed a hold of and the City has definitely embraced it. This is what cities do now for their citizens."

But in order for the path to happen, Rockford still has to win a grant. 

The City of Rockford will find out in the spring of 2021 if they will receive the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program Grant. Carter said it's competetive.

"88% of the people who apply are not funded," he explained.

Examples of recent ITEP projects in Rockford include the "rails to trails" walking bridge by Davis Park and the renovation of the Jefferson Street pedestrian bridge.

If funded, monies from the ITEP grant would fund 80% of the project. The remaining 20% would be funded by Rockford's 1% sales tax. Carter said construction for the multi-use path would begin the spring or summer of 2022 so that it could be operational as early as that fall.