SHERIDAN — If given a choice between driving Illinois Street and most any other street in town, City Councilman Robert Webster thinks most people would choose any other street. But he hopes that sentiment will change this year as Illinois finally gets an overhaul.
“It’s been a long time coming. And if you’ve ever driven that street, it’s really bad on the sides of it,” Webster said. “I think most people would drive any other street than that one right now.”
On April 7, City Council accepted a bid from COP Wyoming, LLC, for $3.17 million to complete a reconstruction project on Illinois Street between Coffeen Avenue and Montana Street that will also include a portion of Heald Street.
Aged water and sewer lines will be replaced, and the street, sidewalks and gutters, which are highly damaged by tree roots and wear and tear, will be completely re-done.
The project will utilize funds from the water and sewer account.
For Webster, the Illinois Street project is worth celebrating.
“I’ll be so happy because when I started as a councilman almost 20 years ago now, we had a lot of roads within the old Ward 3, along the east side of town, that were just dirt roads. Some were not even gravel. We’ve come a long way since I became councilman for Ward 3,” Webster said.
The project will begin in May with an expected completion date of mid-October, Project Manager Joe Schoen said. Trees will be planted in the boulevard in November.
Schoen said utilities in the proposed project area were installed in the 1920s and 1930s, although some of the service lines date as far back as 1908 closer to Coffeen Avenue.
“Illinois Street hasn’t had any street maintenance on it for a number of years (residents say ever),” Schoen wrote in an email to The Sheridan Press. He was away on business and unable to do a phone interview.
Schoen said city crews have patched the rough street surface as it deteriorates with age.
To date, the city has held three public meetings with residents in the area, and Schoen said all who have attended are supportive of the project. A steering committee consisting of residents and homeowners in the project area have also met three times to discuss survey results and conversations with neighbors and make final decisions on the look and feel of the street once it’s complete.
Schoen said the street will be narrowed from 43 feet to 39 feet. Boulevard sidewalks will stay the same width and location, functional lighting will be used and trees will be replaced along Illinois Street.
No more than two intersections will be closed at a time, and the goal is to keep construction time in each section between four and six weeks. Water mains and storm sewer mains run beneath Illinois Street the length of the project, but sanitary sewer is mostly in the alleys, which will enable less disturbance and shortened street closure, Schoen said.
Business access will be maintained throughout the project.
The city will schedule a meeting with residents, the city, the engineer and the contractor in late April or early May to present the project schedule and discuss any questions or concerns.