NORMAL — One of the last relics of Mitsubishi's almost 30 years in the Twin Cities is on the chopping block.
Mitsubishi Motorway, the stretch of U.S. 150 leading to the company's former plant in west Normal, is expected to be renamed Rivian Motorway in honor of the electric car startup that's taken over the facility and, Normal officials said, looks more and more like a long-term pillar of the community.
"I toured the plant a few weeks ago and... they continue to make progress," said Assistant City Manager Eric Hanson. "It's great to see the potential re-use of that facility, which was nearing the demolition phase. I think the town and certainly the council is excited about their future."
The town also plans to rename Sakura Lane, an access road for the plant, to Electric Avenue. Hanson said town staff noted the 1982 Eddy Grant song with the same name.
Sakura means "cherry blossom" in Japanese.
Rivian requested the changes "in support of their efforts to attract additional interest and investors in the project, many of whom visit the Normal plant," Hanson wrote in a memo to the council. Rivian has announced more than $1 billion in investments, including from Amazon and Ford, this year.
"Obviously, it's not necessarily advantageous for them to bring (potential investors) down Mitsubishi Motorway," said Hanson. "This is very business driven, and we fully understand that and are supportive of helping them with a name change."
Rivian spokesman Michael McHale said the company "will be proud to have our name literally 'on the map' in Normal."
"And now I have Eddy Grant in my head," he said.
Normal City Council will consider the proposal Monday. It would then go to Bloomington City Council and McLean County Board before being implemented as soon as September.
The changes will require the town to replace a few street signs — a negligible cost, said Hanson; the Illinois Department of Transportation to replace four signs on Interstate 74 near the interchange, which IDOT will pay for; and local property owners to change their postal addresses.
Hanson said officials met with affected property owners in May, and they supported the change. He estimated about a dozen properties are located on the road, which includes separate areas under the city, town and county.
Rivian is overhauling the plant, including the paint line and offices, as part of a planned $40 million-plus investment in the Normal facility. It plans to release its first vehicle, the R1T pickup truck, in 2020, followed by the R1S SUV and other vehicles all to be manufactured in the Twin Cities.
Rivian is in line to receive a property tax abatement, a $1 million grant from the town of Normal for investing $20 million within five years and state tax credits worth about $49.5 million for creating 1,000 jobs over 10 years.
Normal City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday on the fourth floor at Uptown Station.
In other business, the council will consider renewing its contract with Champaign Signal and Lighting Company for "traffic control equipment, highway lighting and utility locate services."
That includes maintaining 61 traffic signal locations, street lighting and electrical facilities, plus performing J.U.L.I.E. (Joint Utility Locating Information for Excavators) location services for electrical and communications infrastructure owned or maintained by the town.
Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh