Bike BloNo received an email from IDOT on Thursday asking us to voice our support for an application for federal funding to improve the Main Street corridor from Downtown Bloomington to College Avenue in Normal. The funding source they’re seeking, entitled “Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery” (or, TIGER), is incredibly competitive – out of $134 billion in applications, they’ve only been able to award $4.6 billion in grants since the program was established in 2009. This community already knows the benefits of a successful TIGER grant; Uptown Station was the first completed project in the country to have used TIGER funding. And IDOT, which has decided not to apply for TIGER funding anywhere else in the state this year, believes our Main Street Corridor could be the next winner.
Why does Bike BloNo support this application? You guessed it – IDOT has seen the light. They want to fully implement the recommendations in the 2012 McLean County Regional Planning Commission study that included adding safe, convenient bike lanes on Main Street. The study was an effort to make the entire corridor more bike/pedestrian friendly – promoting 21st-century mixed-use development along the entire stretch from Downtown to ISU and encouraging more business activity in the heart of our community.
We’ve included a copy of our letter to US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx below. And, if you can be there, we’d love to see you in person at the Bloomington City Council meeting at 7pm on Monday to show your support for this project. All you need to do is show up with your helmet – and together we’ll make a powerful statement in support of safe, comfortable bike infrastructure in our community.
Dear Secretary Foxx:
We are writing in support of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant application for the reconstruction of US 51 Business through the cities of Bloomington and Normal. US 51 Business, also known as the Main Street corridor, is the commercial, educational, medical, and entertainment backbone for this regional hub. We formed Bike BloNo in 2012 to centralize community support for bicycle accommodations in response to the Main Street Transportation Improvement Feasibility Study. We are ecstatic to be able to partner with IDOT, the City of Bloomington, and the Town of Normal to voice our support for this project.
Creating a truly multi-modal system along this corridor has been a vision of the twin cities for nearly 10 years and the focus of the Main Street Transportation Improvement Feasibility Study. Completed with input from the community, the study’s goal was revitalization of this corridor by creating a multimodal environment with bicycle accommodations that make active transportation a safe and desirable choice within and around the corridor.
As a primary community corridor, Main Street is vital for development between Bloomington and Normal. This corridor serves two universities, Illinois State University (ISU) and Illinois Wesleyan, with a total student population of 22,897. The corridor is also home to BroMenn Medical Center and numerous retail and commercial businesses. Connect Transit bus service serves the corridor that is within a half mile of Constitution Trail (a multi-use trail running parallel to US 51 Business from Bloomington and Normal with a number of east-west branches). Adding bike accommodations will assist in combining transit with bicycling the first mile and last mile of user trips. It would create a pathway to jobs and economic opportunities especially for lower income community members who depend on public transportation. And it would help convince the many people we already see riding dangerously on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic to instead ride on the street.
The corridor has undergone mixed use development in the ISU campus area which has increased the need for bicycle and pedestrian accommodations; thousands of pedestrians cross Main Street many times a day, making its outdated design as an urban highway especially unsafe. Connectivity between ISU’s campus and downtown Bloomington would improve accessibility and safety though upgrades that meet PROWAG policy. Making active transportation a desired option also contributes to the health of the area.
Improvement of this corridor is part of an ambitious effort that will have a profound effect on the future viability of the Bloomington and Normal area. Consistent with the goals of the TIGER program, this project will provide safe, reliable, and affordable connections to employment, education, healthcare, and other essential services.
Mike McCurdy and Michael Gorman
Co-chairs, Bike BloNo Public Policy & Infrastructure
PO Box 722
Normal, IL 61761