51 Coalition


April 3, 2003


U.S. Senate Field Hearing on Surface Transportation

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, Chairman

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works


Hon. Chairman Inhofe:


We write on behalf of the Route 51 Coalition to urge you to include funding in the TEA-3 Program to complete the improvement of Route 51 from Decatur, Illinois south to Centralia, Illinois. For many years, concerned Illinois residents and community leaders from municipalities located along this corridor have worked to secure funding to improve this transportation facility to a four-lane system for economic development, connectivity, and safety of the motoring public. In order for you to further understand the reasons why we believe this improvement is needed, we present the following information.


Description and Costs of Project


Route 51 is currently a two-lane highway from Moweaqua, a community 14 miles north of Pana to Centralia, a distance of 75 miles. It would provide a major economic benefit to the citizens of Central Illinois to upgrade this section of highway to a four-lane expressway section, and the following tasks and total project costs have been identified:


1. Phase 1 Engineering Study needs: An estimated $ 29.9 Million is needed to study 57 miles of this section from 1-70 to Centralia.


2. Phase 2 Engineering Design needs: An estimated $ 54.6 Million is needed to design 64 miles of roadway from 3 miles north of Pana to Centralia.


3. Phase 3 Construction needs: An estimated $ 477 Million is needed to construct this 75-mile section of roadway from 14 miles north of Pana to Centralia.


4. Additional Costs for expressway:

Land Acquisition         $ 23 Million (75 miles)

Utilities                       $ 12 Million (75 miles)

Archeological Survey $ 0.1 Million 75 miles)

$ 35.1 Million (75 miles)


Total project costs                  $ 597 Million (75 miles)




Upgrading this section to a four-lane expressway will produce significant benefits for Central Illinois. These are:


·                              Safer travel for this 75-mile section. Approximately 600 accidents have occurred on this section for a study period of 4 years, with injuries occurring in 200 cases and 4 fatalities as a result of these accidents. An expressway would significantly reduce the number of accidents.


·                              Economic opportunities for the communities in this area would significantly increase as a result of the construction of a four-lane expressway. This is evident from the review of significant economic growth in communities between Bloomington and Decatur in Central Illinois where a four lane-expressway has already been constructed. The regional mall in Decatur-Forsyth has expanded along with the addition of five motels and six restaurants in recent years. This has contributed to more than 300 new jobs. The City of Maroa has anew school and commercial expansion. More than 20 new business have developed or expanded along the Route 51 Corridor west of the City of Clinton as well as an expansion of a regional sanitary landfill, a new church, and a new subdivision. These new or expanded facilities have added more than 200 jobs to the area. The Village of Heyworth has experienced growth in commercial facilities and development of residential subdivisions from the improved highway access north to Bloomington ­Normal.


·                              An improved transportation system would create similar economic opportunities for the counties in this area and for Central Illinois. The agricultural markets would benefit through safer and timelier transport of grain to markets. Industries such as Caterpillar, PPG Archer-Daniels­Midland Company, and Staley/Tate & Lyle in Decatur would benefit from having the improved route to ship their products and receive materials for their manufacturing needs.



Additional Information


Regional Connectivity


These 75 miles of new expressway would bring the additional benefit of providing connections between interstates in the Central Illinois regional corridor. Another expressway facility is also planned for Illinois 29 from Springfield to Pana that will contribute to increased mobility in Central Illinois. Improving the Route 51 expressway completes connections with 1-70 near Vandalia and 1-57 immediately east of Route 51 using 1-64 south of Centralia.


The connection of these expressway and interstate systems would stimulate enormous economic potential to the entire Central Illinois area.


National Connectivity


Upgrading the 75 miles of Route 51 between Moweaqua, Illinois and Centralia offers the potential for Route 51 to be the completing link in a system of interstates that would be the most direct four-lane route from Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin on the north to Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana on the south. This would relieve congestion on both Routes 1-55 and 1-57 and allow a north/south corridor that does not contribute to congestion on the highways adjacent to Chicago.


Regional Project Area Impact


The improvement of Route 51 will benefit the 11 Central Illinois Communities located in the eight counties between Decatur and Centralia. This provides a safer, more direct, and more efficient connection between the suppliers and markets in the regional area of the improvement. This allows items manufactured in communities in and north of Decatur, and in communities along the project corridor to be trucked south to the gulf ports. In addition, grain and commerce moving north would benefit from a more direct route than is currently available.


Current Status of Study. Design and Construction


·                 Phase I Study has been completed from Decatur to south of Pana to the Christian/Shelby County line.


·                 Phase II design is underway from south of Moweaqua to three miles north of Route 16 into Pana.


·                 Phase III Construction is currently underway on the by-pass from north of Moweaqua to south of Moweaqua.


Priorities to Continue Route 51 Improvement


Immediate consideration should be given to the following:


·                 Fund the Phase I Engineering Feasibility and Environmental Study for the 27-mile section from south of Pana to Vandalia for an estimated cost of $10.4 million. This study will take an estimated five years and should be started as soon as possible. No design engineering can be performed until this is complete.


·                 Fund the Phase II Design Engineering from three miles north of Route 16 into Pana for the 6.9 miles around Pana to the east and to the Christian/Shelby County line for an estimated cost of $2.6 million.


·                 Fund the Phase III construction for the 11.3-mile section from south of Moweaqua to three miles north of Route 16 for $45.5 million.


·                Fund the Phase III construction for the 6.9-mile section from three miles north of Route 16 to the Shelby/Christian county line for $31.2 million.

We appreciate the opportunity to point out the major benefits of completing Route 51 between Decatur and Centralia. The major considerations for improving this facility will:


·                 Provide a direct connection to East-west interstate Routes 1-64, 1-70, and I­72.


·                 Provide, in conjunction with the upgrading of  Illinois Route 29, a direct connection to Springfield, Jacksonville, Lincoln, and Peoria.


·                 Provide a direct connection between Mt. Vernon, Centralia, Decatur, and Bloomington-Normal.


·                 Provide safer and more efficient movement of traffic from the “bedroom communities” along the Route 51 corridor to the larger employment centers to the north and south.



Thank you for the opportunity to provide this information for and we sincerely hope the committee will consider the information provided herein as the projects funded by TEA-3 are placed in line for approval.


On behalf of the Route 51 Coalition,


Julie Moore, Board Member