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Starr Report

Crime in our Communities
Sun., Sept. 27, 1998

Alton Bypass leg to open soon

By SANFORD J. SCHMIDT

EDWARDSVILLE -- Alton Bypass boosters are expecting Gov. Jim Edgar to come to the area the week of Oct. 12 to help open the southern leg of what is now being called Illinois 255.

The exact date of the dedication has not been set, River Bend Growth Association President Don Miller said. The ceremony will take place on the overpass at Illinois 255 and Madison Avenue in Wood River, he said.

The southern leg carries Interstate 255 traffic from its terminus to Illinois Route 143.

The new highway will mean a lot to Wood River, Mayor Lon Smith said.

"We're pretty excited about the tie-in with Route 255. It's a lifesaver, I think. Some of the existing highways are pretty dangerous,'' Smith said.

He said the new highway could open the way for new large-lot residential development, as well as new business development.

Jim Easterly, district engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said some important safety construction remains on the bypass between Interstate 270 and Route 143, but chances are good the opening will be Oct. 12 or shortly thereafter.

"The major item left is the guardrail,'' Easterly said. The guardrail is important from a safety standpoint, but it is not expected to cause a delay in the opening, he said.

The original opening date was Oct. 1. The project also came in close to budget, Easterly said.

Construction on the leg between I-255 and Route 143 began in May 1995. It was bud

geted at $110 million.

The next leg will extend from Route 143 to Fosterburg Road near Alton. The final leg will extend to U.S. 67 in Godfrey.

The bypass is a limited access expected to take I-255 traffic from the end of I-255 north through the Edwardsville area, Roxana, Wood River, Bethalto, Fosterburg and Godfrey.

Business leaders have been pushing for the project for years because of its anticipated positive effects on commerce, including a boost to the St. Louis Regional Airport at Bethalto.

Officials said that while they are happy to see completion of a major portion of the bypass, the outlook for completion of the entire project is clouded.

"I wish I had good news on that, but I don't,'' Easterly said. "There is no money in the department budget for Alton Bypass construction.''

There is some planning and land acquisition money, however, he said.

Construction for the leg to U.S. 67 is expected to cost $175 million, he said.

Easterly said much of the money for additional bypass work must come from the federal government.

Brian Lott, the press aide for U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, said there is some light on the horizon.

He said Congress recently set aside $200 million in additional transportation money for Illinois projects, and Costello is working with IDOT to try to get as much as possible for the bypass.

"The Alton Bypass is a central project to the economic development of the region,'' Lott said.

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