New signs to mark BNSF viaduct area for drivers

Marianne Gillespie
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad viaduct on the north side of Chillicothe will be marked with new signs to make drivers more aware of the conditions ahead.

Residents or visitors driving through the viaduct on Illinois Route 29 will be reminded even more of the possible danger ahead.

Mayor Doug Crew and other city officials met with the Illinois Department of Transportation Jan. 16 to discuss making the area safer.

Concerns about the area came to the forefront recently after cold weather, followed by warm weather, created potholes in the area. As the snow melted, then residents could not see those potholes as water stood on the roadway.

“I think it’s been probably two or three weeks ago we had a day or two of thaw on a weekend and we got to the point that the viaduct was almost — I don’t want to say it was almost impassable but certainly dangerous to drive through it — water standing and some pretty big holes. Within about 36 hours they had that repaired to a place where it was at least much safer,” Crew said at the Chillicothe City Council meeting Jan. 27.

Joe Crowe, deputy director of highways, region three engineer, summarized five points from the meeting in a letter dated Jan. 22.

Three of those items include IDOT calling attention to the area.

“Roadway narrows” signs with flags will be installed on both sides, and flashing lights may be added later.

Hazard panels with retroreflective sheeting will be added to the corners of the viaducts and delineation reflectors will be added to the guardrail.

The speed limit will not change through the area, but when hot mix asphalt is available, IDOT “will attempt to repair the roadway surface with partial depth patches,” Crowe wrote.

In April 2012, IDOT announced the viaduct received funding for the design phase, which would take 24-36 months. Almost a year later, construction money of $11.58 million was earmarked for the project for 2015-19. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is expected to chip in funding for the project.

Construction is estimated to cost $22 million and is supposed to feature one structure to carry three mainline tracks, a yard track, service road and pedestrian walkway.

Due to a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce, the project was moved up on the Tri-County Planning Commission’s Transportation Study for 2010-35 of state projects, which at that time was expected to be completed in 25 years.

The aging structure with its narrow lanes make navigating the area safely tricky. It is not known how old the viaduct is. Illinois Route 29 was established in 1918, running from DePue to Peoria. More than 8,000 vehicles pass through the area daily.

In other items, the council:

• Unanimously gave permission for the Everyday Leadership Class to move the wooden Ghost carved by Tim Gill in the city median on Walnut Street. Class members are planning activities and an unveiling in a few weeks.

• Concurred with the mayoral proclamation of Feb. 1-8 as Bald Eagle Days in the city of Chillicothe.

• Adopted a resolution appropriating $22,000 of Motor Fuel Tax funds for maintaining street and highways for the preliminary engineering of the Walnut Street Project. The money represents the local share of funds for the project, which will add water drainage improvements from Fourth Street to Santa Fe Avenue, and eventually the way to Bradley Avenue. Federal funds through the Peoria/Pekin Urban Transportation Study will be used for the improvement. IDOT is scheduled to have a September bid letting for the project.

• Approved a preliminary engineering services agreement with Midwest Engineering Associates to use MFT funds for the project.

• Approved paying $939 to AAIM Employer’s Association for three full days of supervisor essentials series classes in March for Superintendent of Public Works Josh Cooper. The mayor said it is something that should help Cooper “build his skill set: and manage employees.

• Approved a resolution on the execution of engagement letter and risk disclosures with Miller, Hall & Triggs LLC for the potential refinancing of the debt certificates, series 2006. At the last meeting, the council approved refinancing the water tower bonds, which would save the city about $90,000 through a lower interest rate.

• Saw on City Engineer Ken Coulter’s report that plans for the replacement of the back wall of the Prince building, located at 940 N. Second St. Bids for the work on the now city-owned building would be announced at the Feb. 10 council meeting. Planned work includes “complete removal of most of the back wall and reconstruction using concrete blocks,” Coulter noted. Other work includes door and window installation.

• Heard Crew say Mediacom gave notice that it would be working on its latest franchise agreement with the city. Its current agreement expires in March 2015.