MARION - With a little luck - and about $50 million - improved safety and access will be coming to the Interstate 57 interchanges at Marion in the next few years.
The proposed projects will take place at the interstate's intersections with both Illinois 13 and Morgan Avenue, project development engineer Carrie Nelsen of the Illinois Department of Transportation said.
The 57-13 interchange project would cost an estimated $45 million and would see the replacement of bridges over Illinois 13 as well as an interchange redesign.
"The structure itself is the driving force behind this project," she said. "The bridges over (Illinois) 13 have reached their lifespan."
In addition, the bridges have a low vertical clearance of 14.5 feet instead of the 16 to 16.5 feet necessary.
"The beams do get hit on a regular basis," Nelsen said.
The redesign would improve safety for motorists by providing safer entry to and exit off the interstate.
Ramp improvements would be included in the redesign and would likely be collector/distributor systems that would collect traffic off the interstate and distribute it to Illinois 13 or Morgan Avenue, she said.
The Morgan Avenue project, at an estimated $8 million cost, would include those ramp improvements, which would provide full Interstate 57 access to Morgan Avenue.
Changes would also be made to the Morgan Avenue overpass to accommodate the improved access, access that is necessary because of a planned destination development near the interchange.
"We anticipate growth in the area will result in a significant increase in traffic," she said.
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While neither project is funded, Nelsen said both are high priority.
IDOT is pursuing both state and federal funds for the project.
The city of Marion will likely be a funding participant in the Morgan Avenue project, Mayor Bob Butler said.
"These changes are major propositions and the city is going to have to have some skin in the game, which it should," Butler said. "The city may be involved to the tune of $7 million, and we would pay for that out of funds generated in the STAR bond district over time."
The planned destination development is in a sales and tax revenue bond district that will allow a portion of sales taxes generated by the planned retail and entertainment complex be used to offset development and construction costs.
"With the future development, the traffic volume is really going to increase," Butler said. "We think the project is a good investment and something that is necessary."
The city will meet with IDOT next week to look at the proposed changes and offer input.