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Easternmost route favored for east-side highway

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BLOOMINGTON — The “preferred option” for the east-side highway is a route that would follow McLean County Road 2000 East, about a mile east of Towanda Barnes Road.

The choice, which was released Friday, will be discussed at a joint meeting of the Bloomington and Normal city councils and the McLean County Board at 7 p.m. Monday in Room 400 of the Government Center, 115 E. Washington St. While officials want to designate a specific route for planning purposes, the highway would be built only if growth shows a demand for it sometime in the future.

At a June public meeting, Jerry Payonk of the Champaign engineering firm Clark Dietz discussed the final two alternatives and the results of an environmental assessment of each. The other alternative was about a half mile east of Towanda Barnes Road.

“We considered a lot of different factors,” said Payonk of the final proposed choice.

Besides the engineering firm, the study included input from the public, a community working group and the project study group, which included engineers from Bloomington, Normal and McLean County governments.

The environmental study revealed 18 residences, 777 acres of “prime and important” farmland, 10 farm resi-dences and seven businesses would be displaced by the more western route. In contrast, what is now the “pre-ferred option” would displace 13 residences, 794 acres of farmland, six farm residences and no businesses.

“Our recommendation is something that has less impact on residences and businesses,” he said. “To the pub-lic, those are big.”

Payonk said the proposed route closer to Towanda Barnes, for instance, would have had a major impact on Harvest Point subdivision as well as other residences on the east side.

While the alternative closest to Towanda Barnes Road would affect 0.71 acres of wetlands and the “preferred option” only 0.0003 acres of wetlands, representatives of Friends of Kickapoo Creek and the John Wesley Paul Audubon Society of Bloomington-Normal, prefer the more western route, according to comments the groups submitted following the June meeting.

Angelo Capparella, conservation chairman of the John Wesley Paul Audubon Society, said the Clark Dietz study measured only the wetlands directly affected if a highway was built. The two environmental groups took a broader approach, he said.

The proposed route closer to Towanda Barnes Road would have less overall impact on The Grove wetland res-toration and Kickapoo Creek because it is farther away, he said. The soil in the area of the “preferred option” is highly susceptible to erosion, he said, which would mean more sediment damage and more runoff.

“We are particularly concerned about impacts on The Grove Park via effects on the upstream unnamed tribu-taries to Kickapoo Creek…,” he said.

Caparella said throughout his tenure on the community working group he asked what parameter was more im-portant.

“This tells me,” he said. “Business and residences are more important than farmland and the environment. That’s unfortunate. Soil is the foundation of our economy.”

Payonk said the highway only would be constructed when Twin City growth — and the accompanying traffic it would produce — showed a need.

“We want to protect the corridor if growth occurs,” he said. “That’s just good planning.”

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A route that would follow McLean County Road 2000 East, about a mile east of Towanda Barnes Road, is the “preferred alternative” for a propose…

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