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Murphysboro-Waterloo highway project gets a new name 'Southwest Illinois Connector' moving forward with support from Jackson County officials.

Byline: pete spitler

The four-lane, Murphysboro-to-Waterloo highway project now has an official name, as the Four County Highway Coalition informally voted Tuesday to accept state Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo)'s suggestion of "Southwest Illinois Connector."

Schimpf, state Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro), Jackson County Board Chairman John Rendleman, Monroe County Board Chairman Bob Elmore and Perry County Board Chairman Jim Epplin were among a crowd of about 35 people in attendance for Tuesday's meeting at the Perry County Government Building.

Joining the meeting by phone was U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), while representatives from State Rep. Jerry Costello II's (D-Smithton) office, the Perry County Farm Bureau, E.T. Simonds Construction Company of Carbondale and several citizens also attended.

Bost said infrastructure is an issue that's been discussed in great detail among the leadership of the U.S. House and Senate, but finding new revenue streams to pay for large projects is a problem considering the gas tax is no longer enough.

"Everybody is more than willing to spend it, but the question is where the money will be generated to pay for it," Bost said.

Schimpf stated three reasons he feels the project needs to move forward for the economic well-being of the region: SIU-Carbondale's declining enrollment, the safety issues of Interstate 57 and the growth of the Kaskaskia Regional Port District in Randolph County.

Schimpf said he would introduce legislation in the next two weeks to create a task force to further study the project.

According to a handout distributed at the meeting, the Jackson County-to-St. Louis Metro East corridor has been previously studied in 1967, 1976, 1986, 1995 and 1996.

During the 1990s, the project was named the Southwest Illinois Tollway (SWIFT). In 1996, IDOT determined that a 91-mile route from I-57 at Marion to Carbondale, to Murphysboro, passing north of Steeleville and Willisville, going south of Sparta, crossing the Kaskaskia River on State Route 13 and connecting with I-255 southwest of Belleville would cost an estimated $668 million to build.

The closest shovel-ready portion of the Southwest Illinois Connector is the 6.6 mile Murphysboro-to-Vergennes expansion, which is 70 percent complete in Phase II (contract plans and specifications). Carrie Nelsen, program development engineer for IDOT District 9 in Carbondale, reiterated that IDOT has approval to pursue land acquisition, but currently lacks the funding to do so.

The cost of the 25.4 mile Murphysboro-to-Pinckneyville expansion is estimated at $212 million. The FCHC is seeking funding for that and an additional $21 million for engineering and environmental studies for the Waterloo-to-Red Bud and Red Bud-to-Pinckneyville sections.

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Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Geographic Code:1U3IL
Date:Jan 24, 2018
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Next Article:Jackson County court report.

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