AP NEWS

Construction projects planned for DeKalb County’s busiest intersections

April 1, 2019

SYCAMORE – Construction season will begin soon in DeKalb County, with three of the area’s busiest intersections scheduled to undergo major rebuilds.

Although millions will be spent on improvements at Peace Road’s intersections with Barber Greene Road in DeKalb and Route 64 in Sycamore, County Engineer Nathan Schwartz says that without a major injection of capital, the condition of the local road system will continue to deteriorate.

“There’s a lot of roads out there with potholes, cracks, and bumps,” Schwartz said. “I would love to have perfect roads everywhere, but maybe we just can’t afford that.”

At Peace and Route 64, which is used by thousands of vehicles a day, plans call for adding an additional northbound through-lane on Peace south of the intersection. The road is two lanes south of the intersection, but one of them now is a right-turn-only lane, forcing drivers heading north to change lanes.

Plans would also add two southbound and two northbound lanes north of the intersection, new traffic signals, paved safety shoulders, and a positive offset for drivers to turn left from Peace Road onto Route 64.

Barber Greene will have a four-foot paced safety shoulder between Peace Road and Somonauk Road, and a paved right turn lane at Peace.

Plank Road is also scheduled to undergo some safety improvements, including a four-foot safety shoulder installation and overlay on the existing road between Lindgren Road and East County Line Road.

Construction could begin in the begnning of June at the earliest, Schwartz said. Drivers should expect roads to be reduced to one lane during daylight hours, and then re-open after sunset for two-way traffic.

“The work should be completed in time for Pumpkin Fest (in late October),” Schwartz said. “If all the permits are not approved in time, and there’s only one outstanding permit yet, then we’ll have to go to a June [contract bid] letting which means the work will be completed right before the winter.”

The projects on Barber Greene and at Peace and Route 64 will cost over $2 million apiece, but each project will be 90% funded by federal dollars. According to the DeKalb County Highway Department’s 2018 annual report, because the intersection has such large volumes of traffic, it also sees a higher number of vehicle crashes.

The crash statistics qualified those projects for federal traffic safety funds which typically go to addressing crash trends. The remaining 10% of project costs will come from the county government, which collects them from property taxes and its share of the motor fuel tax, according to the report.

County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski said federal and state funding is vital for road improvements.

“Like a lot of other communities in the state, we’ve watched as the state has lowered the amount that they’re providing for different infrastructure projects,” Pietrowski said. “If it was just up to the county, it’d be really hard to come up with all the funding needed.”

According to the Highway Department report, the motor fuel tax is based on a flat amount per gallon of fuel, and in Illinois, 19 cents per gallon of gasoline and 21.5 cents per gallon of diesel fuel is collected for highway related purposes. Of the 19 cents per gallon, the county highway department receives just 0.023 cents.

In the county’s 2018 fiscal year, the highway department received $3.2 million from local property taxes, $1 million in from the federal motor fuel tax, and $1.3 million in Illinois motor fuel tax revenue.

“There are so many needs out there, whether it’s schools, law enforcement, fire protection.” Schwartz said. “But the last time we had a gas tax increase was in 1990.”

Schwartz is among those imploring state legislators to pass a capital bill with a more sustainable revenue stream for funding roads, something state Rep. Jeff Keicher, who represents the 70th House District, said is being discussed in Springfield.

“What they’re looking at is expanding that funding source,” Keicher said. “What has been suggested by the government is that we look and are actually looking now to have an overall capital bill where we take out bonds to front load some of the projects that are doing on.”

Keicher said legislators have not yet seen a draft proposal, but there are hearings happening.

“I think it is critical we address our crumbling infrastructure,” Keicher said. “I think we have neglected it because of the impasse that we’ve had with (Illinois House Speaker) Mike Madigan and (former) Gov. Bruce Rauner the past couple years.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what the capital funding bill looks like when it’s finally released.”