City Council squeaks feasibility study through for brick road improvement

By Gary Scott on May 10, 2016 at 1:02pm

It’s not clear what action might be taken regarding the preservation of the last brick road in Jacksonville.

City Council narrowly approved a $25,000 feasibility study that will give options on how to fix the road on a portion of West Douglas Avenue. The vote was 5-4 in favor, with the city short one alderman due to a recent resignation.

A group of about 10 residents from West Douglas attended Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Included in the feedback: one person complained about sinkholes. Two people said Jacksonville, being an historic town, should save the street. Another said he wanted the street left alone because it slows down traffic, which is a good thing.

Hutchison Engineering in Jacksonville will be handling the study. Jim Burke with the engineering firm says different options to rehabilitate or reconstruct West Douglas, along with the funding mechanisms to pay for the options, will be researched in the study.

“We’ll put that information together, and we’ll have a series of public information meetings, and then solicit public opinion, compile a report, present that to the street committee and possibly the City Council, derive some final decisions, and some final projections on the direction the city’s going to choose to go, and then probably have a final presentation on what that decision’s going to be,” he explains.

He says the most expensive option, which would be rehabilitation and keeping the street purely brick, will cost millions.

“More than likely. It’s not something that has to be done completely in one fell swoop, though. We could look at doing it block by block or half blocks, however it may be,” says Burke.

However, grant funding is available.

“One of things we’re going to look at it is what grants are available. Currently the Illinois Department of Transportation is soliciting some grant proposals; those are due in June, and unfortunately, we’re not far enough along with the project process to qualify,” explains Burke.

“That funding is available, will be reoccurring. It’s the same pot of money we used to do the square, South Main, and North Main over various application processes. We’ll also be working with the [Illinois] Historic Preservation [Commission] a little bit, and then we’ll be looking at specialized funding schemes that would involve the entire city and some of the Motor Fuel Tax funds possibly, as well,” he continues.

Marcy Patterson, who with fellow alderman Travis Richardson surveyed West Douglas residents last year, noted that although the survey showed most residents wanted to keep the brick street, they later approached the pair and said they just wanted something done to improve the quality of the road.

Richardson and Patterson voted in favor of the feasibility study.

So did Planning and Public Works Committee Chair Bill Scott, although he says that was a last-minute decision.

“When I came in this meeting tonight, I had in my mind [to] vote against this. But, without doing this study, we will not have an answer. So, I voted for it,” says Scott.

“I hate to throw away- it’s not throwing away, it’s putting money toward- $25,000 toward a study for this street. This is just one street in Jacksonville, but it’s going to be a huge project if it’s re-done in brick.”

The lower-cost option could mean the disappearance of the bricks, depending on the street is overlaid with asphalt. Scott agreed it’s important to preserve history, but noted…

“We have a lot of streets in town that are brick underneath. I’ll give you an example, West Street is a brick underneath. When I was a kid, we drove up and down it, the tires hummed, it was kind of a neat thing. But, it got overlaid, and has been oil and chipped numerous time since then,” he says.

“To repair streets, you have to do something, and Douglas Street is at that point, something has to be done. Everybody’s probably not going to come out happy with the end result.”

Also voting yes was Steve Warmowski, who said this issue has been kicked down the road and should be addressed, and Tony Williams. Voting no were Mike Wankel, Don Cook, Lori Large Oldenettel, and Jeff Hopkins, who said he’d rather see $25,000 directly spent on improving the brick road.

Raw audio with Jim Burke and Bill Scott: