Funding Announced for Biggsville Bypass

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) leaders today joined State Sen. John Sullivan (D – Rushville) and State Rep. Rich Myers (R – Colchester) at West Central High School to announce the availability of funding for the US 34 Biggsville Bypass, a four-lane divided highway that will divert truck traffic around Biggsville and West Central High School.

“We are pleased to announce that funding from Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! program will be available to improve this section of road,” said IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig. “This will greatly improve safety at a location where children travel to and from school by providing a bypass for the high volume of vehicles which currently pass through the area.”

A shift in funding from another project along US 34 which has been delayed due to a recent levee decertification has resulted in the Biggsville Bypass project now being fully funded by Illinois Jobs Now!

“My priority with the upgrade of Highway 34 is to ensure construction is completed as quickly as possible and that the safety concerns expressed by the students, staff and community of West Central High School are addressed,” said Sen. Sullivan. “I believe this compromise does both. Highway 34 work can progress while we explore solutions to the levee decertification issues.”

“I am extremely pleased that the construction on US 34 is moving forward,” said Rep. Myers.  “The expansion of this stretch of the highway will provide safer travel for all motorists, especially near the area of West Central High School.”

State and local leaders made today’s announcement near the site where an Iowa woman was killed three years ago on the stretch of US 34 that passes West Central High School. After that crash, students at West Central formed a group called “34 Voices” dedicated to improving the safety of US 34.

“When students heard that crash (and to this day it brings horrible memories), all we could think was, 'Is that a parent? A family member? A neighbor? A friend?' When a tragedy like that occurs right outside your back door it would have been unthinkable for us to just sit back and ignore the issue at hand,” said group co-founder Miriam Rutzen.

When it is completed, the Biggsville Bypass will serve as the first completed section of the long-awaited four-lane highway corridor for US 34 in Henderson and Warren counties. More than 5,000 vehicles, 20 percent of those being trucks, travel the current stretch of US 34 every day. 65 crashes have occurred along the current stretch from March 2006 to March 2009, resulting in 16 injuries and one fatality. One group that has advocated for four lanes along US 34 is looking forward to the safety improvements the Biggsville Bypass will create.

“It’s a big step in the right direction. It doesn’t really matter where we start, what matters is we do start,” said Kurt McChesney, Highway 34 Coalition Chairman. “We’re all for it. It’s a big safety concern along the whole stretch of US 34 and we’re real pleased that we’re going forward and that money is being reallocated. It’s great to see that it’s a priority in Springfield.”

The Biggsville Bypass is currently in the construction plan preparation phase. Total cost of the 4.7 mile project is approximately $60 million. Construction could begin as early as November 2012 and the project could be completed as early as November 2014.