I promised Part Three much earlier. I had a tennis match but it really didn't take this long although I did win all four of my mixed-doubles matches on Pekin Courtside indoor courts. I am a member of the Clubs at River City with 12 indoor and 8 outdoor clay courts. These relatively inexpensive clubs are of the areas finest attractions. Privately funded and tax PAYING facilities have a great appeal for Tri-County residents, visitors and potential businesses.
But back to the famous "Highway to Chicago" push by the Peoria area "movers and shakers", a campaign that started in the 1950's when Bloomington won the battle of I-55. This was a major loss for this area politicians and business leaders have brooded over for decades: "Bloomington didn't deserve I-55, we did", the IHSA basketball teams will never find Peoria; (they did and in record numbers), they won't come to the Civic Center, (then why did the Civic Center recently expand and why has the City of Peoria committed to a major hotel expansion and why four new hotels out at the Shoppes?) and why are the Shoppes apparently thriving with Bergners maintaining two department stores while only one Bergners in Bloomington? And why is the Coliseum in Bloomington losing their shirt, it was projected to be turning a profit by now instead of losing millions of dollars each year. (See my blog of 11/11/09)
So what is my point? Exactly, Bloomington is on a DIRECT Interstate highway from Chicago to St. Louis and a DIRECT interstate from practically coast to coast. In the meantime, Tupelo, Miss. is 5 HOURS by road to the nearest seaport, (Peoria sits on an almost direct route to a seaport) an hours drive to the nearest interstate highway, (Peoria sits on a major Interstate) yet Tupelo attracted 44 new factories, 150 plants expanded, 10,000 new jobs. etc.
In September, 2005, i wrote a LTR printed on the JSEB Opinion page listing 9 reasons a direct route to Chicago was not worth the expense and waste of farmland and money. Shortly thereafter I received a call from the Editor of the Bloomington Pantagraph to reprint my opinion. I agreed and the same article I had written for the JS appeared n the Pantagraph under the heading "Guest Commentary". Thereafter, when the JSEB wanted to say something uncomplimentary about me, they ended each Editorial with "Widmer was also opposed to the Highway to Chicago".
The headline on the front page of the April 7, 1999 Journal Star read "Proposal a 'road to ruin' as 'Taxpayers for Common Sense' labeled the highway to Chicago as unneeded and and dictated by business interests; there is no federal entitlement to a new road wherever one is wanted. There are other ways to get from Peoria to Chicago that are acceptable...it is not worth $1 billion to run a raod to Peoria's front door".
Now State Representative Dale Risinger, at that time he was state District Engineer for this are, said "that decision to to build should be the local people's decision. There is widespread support for the "ring road" (over 5,000 people signed petitions to stop it) and people in this area want economic development." Earlier, my friend Dale was quoted in the August 1995 "Heart of Illinois feasibility study" saying "None of the proposed routes showed any outstanding economic benefits because jobs created along the corridor would be at the expense of existing businesses".
Uncountable millions of dollars have been spent on "studying" a new road to Chicago and a ring road. As early as 1992, $3 million was allocated to the HOI for a feasibility study; 1993, another $1 million and so on. Now the Terry Kohlbus and Roberta Parks are still pushing for a "Diagonal interstate quality connection from Peoria to the Chicagoland area at a proposed cost of $700,000,000. Sounds like Rt. 29again except it's cost has now grown to $825 million. Overall $23+ million is being requested (at this time) of the Senate Transportation Committee for studies of just three of the 12 major Regional Projects served by the Tri-County Regional Planning group headed by Mr. Kohlbus, which have an PROJECTED COST of somewhere around $250,000,000,000.00.
Next up, Part 4, I hope, is Rt. 74 and various positions taken over the years by Ray LaHood and others. In the mean time most of my readers will be dead and gone before a quarter trillion dollars are spent on new construction in this area while existing roads and bridges are falling apart.
(All of the figures quoted in this blog are in print and available anyone who wishes to see).