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Thurs., March 26, 1998

Funds move ahead for area roads

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH

EDWARDSVILLE -- Two local highway projects have received a financial boost from a U.S. House transportation committee.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week approved $4.275 million for use on Illinois Route 159 in the Edwardsville area and $2.5 million for land acquisition needed for the extension of Interstate 255 from Illinois Route 140 to Fosterburg Road.

The office of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus announced the funding Wednesday. Shimkus said his 20th Congressional District could receive $20 million as part of the six-year bill.

The money represents just a "drop'' of what is needed on both projects and still needs to be approved by a conference committee of both the U.S. Senate and House, the full House and Senate, and eventually the President. But officials at both state and federal levels are optimistic that the money will eventually materialize.

"We get it a drop here and a drop there, but pretty soon you have a bucket,'' said Dick Smith, assistant to the director for policy and federal affairs at the Illinois Department of Transportation. "We are optimistic.''

Smith said the Route 159 funds could be used anywhere along 159, from Route 143 in Edwardsville to just south of the county line at Collinsville. The northernmost 2.2-mile stretch is the planned relocation of 159 that will run from downtown Edwardsville to Center Grove Road. Beyond that point, 159 is slated for widening all the way to Interstate 64.

Use of the money will depending on when -- or if -the money is received by IDOT from the federal government and what kind of restrictions are placed on its use, Smith said.

Smith said the full House will vote next week on the transportation bill, then the measure will go immediately to the conference committee. The hope is that President Clinton will sign the bill by May 1, he said.

The Alton Bypass has been alloted $2.5 million for land acquisition between Route 140 and Fosterburg Road. The new four-lane connector will eventually join I-255/270 and U.S. Route 67. U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello is the primary sponsor of the bypass project, which is a 22-mile segment of roadway estimated to eventually cost $100 million.

Shimkus said the bill also contains $6.8 million for engineering work and land acquisition for 10.6 miles of new highway 67 between Godfrey and Jerseyville.

River Bend Growth Association President Don Miller said "Corridor 67'' is estimated at $30 million overall.

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