Proposed $22.7 million Uptown underpass is a tough sell for two Normal Town Council members

From the Town of Normal.
From the Town of Normal.

NORMAL (WEEK) – The price of an underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross train tracks in Uptown Normal is now estimated at $22.7 million, Normal Town Council members were told Monday night.

Almost $1.7 million would come from local tax dollars. The rest would come from state and federal funds for what’s now been branded as the Uptown Connector because it connects the north and south sides of the track.

It’s not known yet when the council will make final decisions, but not everyone supports the project.

“I have just struggled fundamentally since 2015 that the government is telling people how to cross a railroad track, and so for that reason, I have a hard time getting excited for spending $22 million on going over, under, around, whatever,” said Council member Kathleen Lorenz.

Council member Stan Nord considers an underpass a luxury item when it’s compared to more pressing needs to upgrade infrastructure like roads, sewer, and water.

“I’m going to be very vocal if we pushed off these high priority things, and told the public we couldn’t afford we couldn’t afford to do them, and we were saving for this luxury underpass project,” said Nord.

Council member Karyn Smith offered her support, noting disabled people have difficulty navigating at-grade crossings.

Backers also said the underpass would create 400 jobs by expanding the Uptown business district.

Mayor Chris Koos said not moving forward on the project would be a very bad option.

“The work done by our legislators, two congressmen, and two senators, that would be disastrous for us to take a path of do nothing,” the mayor said.

If the council approves the project, town staffers said construction could start at the end of next year

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