April 3, 2003
Honorable James Inhofe of Oklahoma
Chairman, Committee on Environmental and Public Works
Dear Mr. Chairman:
In 1998 a coalition of Public and Private entities in East Central Illinois were successful in receiving approval for a new interstate interchange designed to improve economic development, tourism and our quality of life. We have secured $8.15 million in federal funds, $9.93 million in state funds, $3.6 million in Illinois Commerce Commission (Safety) funds, $.6 million in Truck Access Route Program funds, $.5 million in Surface Transportation Rural funds and $.3 million in Canadian National Railroad funds. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $28 million. Considering the funding secured above, we remain $4,920,000 short. We have recently been in contact with Senator Fitzgerald regarding the use of Economic Development Agency funding to insure all aspects of the project can be funded and completed.
Interstate 1-57 is the major transportation artery for Coles County and the East Central region of Illinois. It runs north and south and is located between Mattoon and Charleston, populations 19,000 and 20,000 respectively. The existing interchange serving both cities and other surrounding counties and communities provides access to IL Route 16 which goes through the center of both Mattoon and Charleston. Both communities have their industrial parks on their north sides requiring heavy industrial traffic to travel through the communities to access IL 16 and eventually 1-57. County and community leaders recognize that a new access point to 1-57 north of the existing IL 16 interchange would make their local industries more competitive and remaining industrial space more desirable while improving safety by eliminating the industrial truck traffic on IL 16. The existing interchange forces industrial traffic through 11 stop lights in Mattoon and 16 stop lights in Charleston while passing by and transiting a Regional Hospital, Eastern Illinois University, Coles County Airport, Cross County Mall as well as numerous commercial and residential areas. Just eliminating the need to endure stop lights will save our existing industries a conservative estimate of $274,000 per year in transportation operating costs.
One popular tourist attraction in East Central Illinois is Lake Shelbyville. Currently there is no direct access to those recreational facilities from 1-57. Access today involves considerable travel on secondary roads along indirect and confusing routes.
As mentioned earlier support for this new 1-57 interchange has been regional in nature. Private economic development groups, Lake Shelbyville Association, Coles County and the cities of Mattoon and Charleston are among those (Attachment 1) contributing funds for the feasibility and early design stages of this project.
Attachment two is a diagram defining the proposed new interchange and the roads connecting to the industrial areas of Mattoon and Charleston. The $4,920,000 being requested would fund projects #1 and #2 shown in blue on the diagram. Project #1 would. provide direct access to the recreational facilities at Lake Shelbyville as well as a less congested and safer access to the Interstate system for citizens living in Douglas, Moultrie and Shelby counties.
One of our primary industries in East Central Illinois is agriculture. Some of the most productive farm land in the nation lies north of IL 16 in Coles County. The new interchange and associated connecting roads, will impact access to fields for planting and harvesting several thousand acres of prime agricultural land. Project #2 would improve an existing but severely undersized road to accommodate farm implements. Project #2 along with locally funded improvements will provide the access necessary to support our agribusiness and separate slow moving farm implements from heavy industrial traffic.
The communities in East Central Illinois have been investing in improving our infrastructure to make us competitive with surrounding areas and states for economic development. We enjoy an outstanding quality of life and serve as a regional center for health care, education, shopping, tourism and industry. The new interchange and connecting roads will enhance our ability for growth while further improving our quality of life. Your support of this project will have a major impact on helping us to help East Central Illinois to grow and prosper in the years to come.
CITY OF CHARLESTON
Roscoe M. Cougill
CITY OF MATTOON
COLES COUNTY BOARD
County Board Chairman