A four-lane upgrade of Illinois 13/127 from Murphysboro to Pinckneyville is getting a renewed push, courtesy of the Jackson Growth Alliance.
Recently, the JGA - a non-profit collaboration of community, govern-ment and business entities from Jackson County - held a meeting to begin forming a coalition to try to make the four lane highway a reality. The project that has been in the works for almost 40 years.
The project has "design approval" status with the Illinois Department of Transportation, meaning its personnel have approval to proceed with final design and right of way acquisition and construction once funding is secured for the project.
The current Illinois Department of Transportation plan involves expanding approximately 23 miles of the existing Illinois 13/127 from two lanes to four lanes, beginning at the Ava Road intersection north of Murphysboro and ending on Illinois 127 just north of Pinckneyville. The expansion will also include an eastern bypass of Vergennes, an interchange at Illinois 152 and a western bypass of Pinckneyville with an interchange at Illinois 154.
The project's first phase, which included environ-mental assessments and public involvement, were completed in 2007, but since then, the project has been stuck in the second phase of acquiring land. IDOT has purchased some rights of way within the corridor on a voluntary basis at the request of property owners.
The Illinois 13/127 bridge over Beaucoup Creek will be replaced in 2013, constructed in the proposed southbound lane alignment of the four lane highway to facilitate fu-ture construction, according to a presentation document prepared by the JGA.
The present-day cost estimate for the project is $173 million. However, the project was not included in the IDOT Five Year Program since no funding has been appropriated. The project was not included in the recent state capital construction bill.
JGA Executive Director Jeff Doherty said, in the past, progress had been made when coalitions pressed the project. Bringing another group together is a first step in getting the four lane highway on track, to convey the message on a consistent basis to Springfield and Wash-ington D.C. that it should be a priority.
"This is a project that is vital to the future growth of our region, for economic development and job opportunities," Doherty said.
Murphysboro Mayor Ron Williams said that with the renewed interest in infrastructure improvements, it's an ideal time to push the four-lane project.
"It's something that would increase the eco-nomic viability of the area," Williams said. "I think it would increase jobs. I think it would give us a leg up on getting more business from businesses that are established - giving those people easy access to the metro mar-ket."
Pinckneyville Mayor August Kellerman and representatives of the Foundation for Pinckney-ville also attended the JGA meeting. The Illinois 13/127 expansion is a part of a strategic plan for Pinckneyville that was conceived by the Founda-tion and the idea is something Kellerman supported during his election campaign.
"It would be really great for the growth of the city," Kellerman said.
On Twitter: @BrentStewartSI