Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I-180 in Danger of Shrinking to Two Lanes

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
A proposed cost-saving measure by the federal government could cost Putnam County, and surrounding areas, big.

The Putnam County Board received correspondence from U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) about the possibility of Interstate 180 being reduced to two lanes. Kinzinger is against the reduction.

County board president Duane Calbow and the board on Monday said the reduction would impact the marketability of the county for economic growth.

Hennepin mayor Kevin Coleman agreed.

“I think it’s a foolish thing to do,” said Coleman. “The Economic Development Council from North Central Illinois has been working for more than a year trying to develop a three-county economic develop council for Bureau, La Salle and Putnam counties, which includes over 150,000 people.

“In the three counties, Hennepin’s north side is one of the most favorable industrial sites in the state of Illinois,” Coleman said. “To market this area, we are using the rail service, the river service, and the interstate service to its front door.”

“Interstate 180 is part of what drew us here in the first place,” said Dana Gustafson, executive assistant at Marquis Energy. “It is such a logistical advantage of Putnam County and this enterprise zone we are in.”

Marquis Energy is expanding, and after expansion is complete, the plant will be the largest dry mill ethanol facility in the world. With that expansion, up to 500 trucks a day will enter the plant.

“We have a concern that it’s going to hurt the marketability of the Hennepin mill area,” said Scott Stavrakas, president of the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development. “We are very close to putting some things together there, and anything that takes away accessibility will hurt our efforts to get that facility up and going again.”

Coleman said reducing the lanes will be detrimental not only to possible future growth, but also current businesses operating near the interstate, including Washington Mills, Consolidated Grain and Barge, and Marquis Energy.

“Taking the interstate service away from this is a blow to the Economic Development Council. It’s a blow to any type of economic development in our region,” Coleman said. “It would cripple not just Putnam County but the three surrounding counties, and probably Marshall County.”

“We think it would be detrimental to creating jobs in the area,” Gustafson added. “For the potential to redevelop the steel mill site, or develop the current open acres in the enterprise zone, taking away from current logistical advantages doesn’t help the case for business wanting to come here. It could negatively impact drawing jobs to the area.”

Source: News Tribune