Posted: Aug. 26, 2020 12:01 am
QUINCY — It has taken more than a year of planning, public forums, surveys and committee meetings, but the city of Quincy is one step closer to having an updated Regional Transportation Plan.
The city’s Plan Commission unanimously approved a draft copy of the plan be adopted.
The plan, which identifies 28 different transportation-related projects, now heads to the Quincy City Council for approval.
The projects range from converting one-way streets to two-way thoroughfares, removing traffic signals, adding bicycle lanes, extending recreational trails and larger projects including widening Ill. 57 from two lane to four lanes from Quincy to Fall Creek.
“It is great to see it build on what we have already put together with the Quincy Next Strategic Plan and now with the Transportation Plan and moving into the Riverfront (Master Plan), said Maggie Strong, one of the consultants hired by the city to facilitate the creation of the 20-year transportation plan. “These are all things that moving forward are going to be a playbook for the city to use for the next 10, 15, and 20 years.”
Other consultants hired were the Lochmueller Group of St. Louis, and Development Strategies, also of St. Louis.
Together in collaboration with the steering committee, which included business owners, civic leaders, elected officials and area residents, the consultants identified 12 priority projects based on the results of online and in-person surveys conducted during two town halls last year and one in March.
One of the 12 priority projects identified in the plan is the conversion of State Street from two lanes to three lanes from 24th to 36th Street. The project, which would add dedicated bike lanes, would cost between $8 to $10 million. Based on the survey responses, the project had the highest levels of support compared to the other 11 priority projects, with the average respondent ranking it as their highest priority.
As part of the transportation study, officials also determined the need for a further review and the possibility of making changes to Broadway, which is already one of the busiest streets in Quincy with an estimated 100,000 vehicles on the road per day, city officials say.
Based on the consultants’ report, the traffic congestion on Broadway east of 36th Street will drastically increase by 2040 as the volume of motor vehicle traffic will reach the road’s limits.
“Broadway is really an area where a lot of focus needs to be placed because that is where congestion is going to continue to develop,” said Chris Beard, director of traffic and transportation planning with the Lochmueller Group.
Possible remedies to alleviate traffic congestion on Broadway is to review the timing of existing traffic signals, removing the signal at Sixth Street because the street is now closed, adding safer crossings for bicyclists and pedestrians, and consolidating the number of driveways and curb cuts along the street.
These remedies are expected to cost about $250,000.
The third priority project includes converting Sixth Street into a pedestrian area, including making intersection improvements at Sixth and Hampshire.
Another of the priority projects is to build a seven-bay bus transit center on the south end of the 700 block of Jersey Street, which would allow buses to pull in and out of traffic and improve safety for both bus drivers and passengers. This project, expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million, received mixed reviews from the survey results, but consultants say it scored high with the steering committee.
The draft Transportation Plan also freezes an effort to build a new downtown Amtrak train station.
Beard said, “It is a pretty costly and challenging proposition relative to the benefit it would provide. We recommend to just hit pause until we can get some more research about this.”
Other priority projects include extending Maine Street toward the riverfront once the eastbound Quincy Memorial Bridge is replaced with a new bridge at York Street; developing a possible alternative route for freight to and from Interstate 172 either by improving Ghost Hollow Road or Neiders Lane, which would likely cost $30 million; converting Hampshire and Vermont streets into two-way streets from Front Street to 18th Street and possibly 24th Street, which would cost an estimated $3 million; add bicycle lanes known as Cycle Track to Vermont Street from Front to 16th streets, which would cost $7 million; and changing York and Jersey streets from one-way to two-way streets from Third and Fourth streets to 12th and 14th streets.
Beard said, “Third Street would become the IDOT-maintained route and would have two-way traffic, and Fourth Street would revert back to being a city street. We believe that this will really improve the walkability and circulation of traffic downtown.”
He added that studies done by the consultants found that bringing the new Quincy Memorial Bridge to York Street would “not significantly alter downtown traffic patterns.”
The remaining two priority projects include constructing a roundabout at 24th and Harrison and 48th and State streets. The State Street roundabout is already in planning.
Strong said she knew there will be some in the community who have questions about the projects.
“We certainly hope that people will keep an open mind. Change is a scary thing sometimes, but it can also be a really positive thing,” Strong said. “Just because we rated some projects higher priority than others does not mean that they are going to be completed in that order,” a point echoed by Quincy’s Director of Planning and Development Chuck Bevelheimer.
He said, “The purpose of doing this was to put the city into a position where we had a transportation policy that we can talk to the Illinois Department of Transportation about. So that when planned improvements are coming to our community then we can sit down and show them that this is what the community wants for this street or for this neighborhood.”
Most of the projects included in the transportation study will not move forward until a funding source is identified, Bevelheimer said.
“As we have accessibility to grants and different funding streams, then we are going to look at the transportation plan, what our priorities are, what projects we can undertake, which projects have grant funding behind them. By using federal funds, which is money we all pay taxes on, then we can see funds come back to our community to pay for these projects,” Bevelheimer said.
Strong thanked those in the community who participated in the public forums and responded to the surveys.
She said, “Engagement is critical whenever you are working on something like a Transportation Plan. We needed to know what the community wants, supports and needs. We did our best to get our best to get as many voices as possible.”