Without proper planning, certain projects in Southern Illinois may never get done, or even considered.
The Southern Illinois Metropolitan Planning Organization (SIMPO) specializes in just that – planning for the future.
SIMPO is an organization made up of two committees. The first is the technical committee made up of engineers for each city within the boundary. The second is the policy committee made up of elected officials.
The organization is tasked with deciding where state dollars will be used. The technical committee ranks the applications based on a scoring system and the policy committee votes on what projects get funded.
The municipalities making up the organization are Herrin, Marion, Carterville, Carbondale, as well as Williamson and Jackson counties. Crainville, Cambria and Energy have a combined seat and IDOT, Federal Highway Administration, Jackson and Ride Mass Transit are all a part of the discussion for federal funding.
Since there are more than 50,000 people in those areas, all those cities between are lumped together and labeled as a Metropolitan Statistical Area by the state. It means the cities have to form a planning organization for transportation development.
Currently, SIMPO is working with Carbondale and Herrin on completing studies to help the cities enhance the quality of life.
In Carbondale, Joe Zdankiewicz, director of transportation planning with SIMPO, said the organization is funding a study to provide a Master Bike Plan.
“Carbondale wants to be recognized as a bike-friendly community, so one of those they need to do is have a master bike plan for the town,” he said.
Main elements of the plan will include an inventor of the existing bicycle infrastructure, identify connections between routes in the existing network, and find roads that could accommodate bike lanes. Other parts include recommending policy changes in the short and long term for assisting cyclists and developing actionable actions to help Carbondale move towards being recognized as a bike-friendly community.
SIMPO hosted a public input meeting about the plan Wednesday and Zdankiewicz said there were about 30 people in attendance with great encouragement.
“They were all engaged and enthused,” he said. “That is a group that is very active in the community and they were excited about it.”
According to a schedule provided by SIMPO, the plan is scheduled to be completed about May or June of 2016 with a couple more public meetings for input.
In Herrin, the organization is looking at the downtown area for improvements.
Traffic, parking, pedestrian facilities, sidewalks and crosswalks are all being looked at for areas of improvement by the organization, said Zdankiewicz.
“One of the biggest problems is parking. There isn’t enough of it,” he said. “The public parking is not well marked. If you aren’t from the area, you don’t know where the public parking is.”
Earlier in October Herrin Mayor Steve Frattini said better flow in the downtown should help those businesses thrive.
“We want to improve the pedestrian flow and the traffic flow and determine the best utilization of parking. It’s all in the idea of increasing business and commerce downtown,” said Frattini.
He said the organization is in the gathering information portion of the plan, and it is not ready to present alternatives.