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Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens

Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens is pictured downtown in June 2018.

MURPHYSBORO — Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens will now represent the city — and potentially other municipalities — along Illinois 127 as part of the Southwest Connector Task Force.

Stephens has served as part of the 4 Lane Coalition for the last 18 months, and said he asked former Carbondale Mayor Brad Cole, who now works with the Illinois Municipal League, to have his name put in the hat for a seat at the table for the task force.

The bill introducing the task force was brought the the Illinois General Assembly in February and was adopted by both chambers at the end of November. According to language on the General Assembly’s website, it will “study the cost, feasibility, and environmental impact,” of expanding and connecting 127 to St. Louis.

Should the project be green-lit, Stephens said it could have tremendous impact on Murphysboro.

“It would likely bring more traffic that would otherwise be traveling down other routes to Murphysboro, in turn expanding our tax base and showcasing our community to more people,” Stephens wrote in an email Friday. He said it could also do more than just bring in tourism or travel dollars.

“It also would make Murphysboro more attractive to potential employers, particularly those that might be in the manufacturing sector,” he said.

As for the time commitment, Stephens said he’s not sure yet what the post will involve, but said should he have to miss a City Council meeting, the other members are more than capable of handling business on the occasions he wouldn’t be there. Stephens said he anticipates having to make occasional trips to Springfield and other local communities for meetings, and occasional trips to testify before the Senate.

He said there is not a financial commitment from the city for his participation, but said he may ask the Council to reimburse his travel expenses for potential trips to Springfield.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo, will be a leader on the project and Sen. Dale Fowler, R-Harrisburg, was a co-sponsor of the bill in the Senate. Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, was a co-sponsor in the House.

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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