April 4, 2003

 

The Honorable Peter Fitzgerald

United States Senate

Senate Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator Fitzgerald:

The Highway 34 Coalition strongly supports actions that will ensure the completion of US 34 as a four-lane highway in Illinois and Iowa. We believe that we are at an especially crucial crossroad. There is heavy competition throughout the nation and the states for limited resources for new road construction. Therefore, the Coalition is requesting that legislation be undertaken that will ensure that the U.S. 34 four-lane improvement remains a top priority with the US Department of Transportation and receives full funding.

 

The Highway 34 Coalition was formed in 1990 as bi-state, bi-partisan coalition of community organizations, local government representatives, businesses and individuals who were committed to revitalizing the economic climate of the region through the improvement of the transportation system-especially the US 34 corridor. Our focus and commitment to this project has not diminished during the past 13 years.

 

We believe that US 34 should be completed as a four-lane because. . .

 

·                   Between January 1990 and June 2002, 1,666 accidents including 14 fatalities (January 1994- June 2002) occurred on U.S. 34 in Henderson and Warren counties.

 

·                   Seven high accident locations have been identified within the US 34 project corridor.

 

·                   The proposed improvements are expected to reduce traffic accident rates in these areas by providing a safer, more efficient route between Monmouth and Gulfport.

 

·                   Within the four-lane expressway around the west and north sides of Monmouth, the accident rate for 1998, 1999 and 2000 ranged up to 4.38 accidents per million vehicle miles traveled as compared to the statewide average accident rate for urban divided highway of 1.52 accidents per million vehicle miles traveled.

 

• Much of US 34 from US 67 to Giilfport lacks adequate shoulders and clear zones. Portions of this section do not meet current standards for horizontal alignment and that passing sight distance is limited.

 

·                     US 34 is a key regional corridor for the east-west movement of people and goods in, and through, west central Illinois. US 34 will be the major east-west corridor connecting Interstate 74 and the Avenue of the Saints (Interstate 218).

 

·                     The Great River Bridge/US 34 over the Mississippi River is the only four-lane bridge for approximately 130 miles. (Nearest four-lane bridges are in the Quad Cities and at Hamilton. The nearest bridges are at Muscatine (46 miles north) and Niota (17 miles south)-but they are only two lane. The existing large volume of truck traffic (13-31 %) is expected to increase.

 

·                    US 34 is vital to the economic growth of west central Illinois. US 34 is a regional highway priority as identified by the Tri-State Development Summit Transportation Task Force.

 

·                    The average daily traffic volume on US 34 ranges from 10,300 west off the Carman blacktop to a range of 3,950-7,500 along the corridor and at the US 67 Interchange. (Projected traffic volumes along the existing route are expected to range from 6,200 to 17,500 in the 2025 design year.) (The Big River Resources ethanol plant estimates 3,000 trucks per month will be added to the traffic count on US 34 when it begins operations in West Burlington the fall of 2003.)

 

·                   Each year the cost increases. The estimated total costs to complete the highway in December 2000 was $295 million. In February 2003, the estimated total cost was up to $330 million-that’s a $40 million increase in just 26 months. That’s almost a $1 million per mile per year cost increase.

 

·                   The time has come to complete the US 34 Corridor. The project started 36 years ago. During 1963-69, the Illinois Highway Study Commission prepared a highway needs and study plan for the state. As part of that plan, several different corridor approvals were granted in the vicinity of US 34. In 1967 a corridor from Gulfport to southwest of Gladstone was approved and in 1970 a corridor from Gladstone to Monmouth. However, it wasn’t until 1997 that the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration allocated funding to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement.

 

Your support in ensuring that US 34 becomes a four-lane highway sooner than later is greatly appreciated. Please find enclosed testimonials concerning the need for the few miles remaining to be completed. Let’s make it 0 miles to go!

 

Respectfully,

 

Kurt McChesney, Chairman

Highway 34 Coalition

 

***

 

Testimonials in Support of Completing US 34 as a Four-Lane

 

The following are excerpts from letters received by the Highway 34 Coalition from businesses, community organizations and governmental entities in support of completing US 34 as a four-lane for safety and economic reasons:

 

Big River Resources Cooperative, West Central Illinois & Southeast Iowa

 

The Board of Directors of the Big River Resources Cooperative ethanol plant project strongly encourages the development and expansion of US 34 in western Illinois and eastern Iowa. The Big River plant will begin operation in December or January of 2003/2004 and we anticipate 150 trucks or semis to be using US 34 on a daily basis to deliver corn and manufactured goods as well as carry the products we are producing. We believe that expanding from the present two-lane to the proposed four-lane is essential for not only safety concerns but will be an economic benefit to the region surrounding Burlington, IA and Monmouth, IL.

 

Big River Resources presently has an office in Illinois as the site in Iowa is under construction. We are a regional project whose goal is to add economic benefits to the agricultural sector of this region. We are aware of US 34 on a daily basis and realize the important connection it is between Illinois and Iowa.

 

Terry Davis, Legislative co-chairman

264 US Hwy 67

Roseville, IL 61473

 

Nelson Trucking Service, Inc., Mediapolis, IA

 

Nelson Trucking Service would like to express its support of the 34 Coalition and its effort to see that the highway in question is completed this resulting in a 4-lane highway. Nelson Trucking has been in business for over 70 years and this particular stretch of road is a familiar one for us.

 

We operate 15-20 trucks on a daily basis through this stretch of road We are a flatbed operation that hauls numerous loads of building materials (ex. Steel, shingles, lumber, brick) to meet our customers’ needs in the Southeast Iowa and Illinois area. For Nelson personally, that means millions of miles and in excess of 180,000,000 lbs. per year. An expanded road for our industry means a higher security for our divers and fellow highway users. Obviously, accidents are reduced and fears are eased. Nelson Trucking would like nothing better than to see that every opportunity has been taken to ensure the safety of all drivers on the road.

 

Nelson Trucking Company

 

Monmouth Grain & Dryer Co., Monmouth, IL

 

Confirming our telephone conversation this morning, we at the Monmouth Grain & Dryer Co. Inc., are proud to sponsor one of the golf holes at the “Highway 34 Coalition Golf Outing.” We certainly understand the importance of this project moving forward.

 

From Monmouth to the Burlington, Iowa area, our company transports approximately 60,000 tons of goods per year. Needless to say, we are very concerned about safety while traveling the current conditions. We are always aware of safe conditions and can attest to the difference from east-to west out of Monmouth.

 

James M. Lovdahl, President Monmouth Grain & Dryer Co., Inc.

 

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Mt. Pleasant, IA.

           

My staff and I wholeheartedly support the efforts of the Highway 34 Coalition!

 

Our facility uses US 34 daily to ship merchandise to our Wal-Mart Stores and Supercenters. We also use the corridor very heavily to bring freight back to our Distribution Center from vendors and consolidators in Illinois and points east. We certainly depend on this highway to run out business!

 

At the same time, our Drivers have had some very close calls-near collisions-while navigating this road. The narrowness of the road itself, limited sight distance in certain areas, and slow-moving local traffic are the main problems here.

 

It’s obvious to us that based on usage and the importance of this road, it should be a four-lane highway. Please include us in any efforts to make that happen. And let any/all influencers and decision makers involved with this effort know that Wal-Mart supports a better, safer highway.

 

Chick Yatsko, General Transportation Manager

Wal-Mart Distribution Center, Mt. Pleasant, Iowa

 

Atlas Intermodal Trucking Service, Inc., Burlington, IA

 

Every year Atlas Intermodal trucks travel across Highway 34 in Illinois with approximately 3,780 loads. The heavy traffic on the two-lane section of this road is cause for great concern for the safety of our divers and others using this highway.

We are certainly supportive of efforts to obtain State of Illinois commitment to fund building of a four-lane highway.

 

Beverly A. Ivey, Comptroller

 

JAMES L. VOLLBRACHT TRUCKING

 

We are a family owned trucking company that travels Highway 34 routinely, currently operating ten to fifteen tractor-trailer units on a daily basis. With us conducting a majority of our business out of a plant in Monmouth, we are constantly using Highway 34 as a means of transportation.

 

There have been several occasions where it has been difficult in making turns onto the Kirkwood blacktop, traveling east or west, along with making turns onto Highway 34. The bypass around Kirkwood is a difficult one, in the sense that each exit into Kirkwood is on a curve making it impossible to have a clear view upon entering the highway.

 

Our company conducts business in Burlington as well and a four lane improvement would allow better visualization and better traveling for all involved with highway 34 obviously being one of the highest transportation highways nearby. There have been numerous occasions of vehicles passing our tractor-trailer units, sometimes on hills and even in no passing zones, nearly resulting in accidents. Trying to stop or slow down a loaded unit is a little more complicated then slowing down a car or pickup truck and the results are usually fatal.

 

A four lane highway would increase our production and decrease our cost, by the fact that with a two lane road there are constant obstacles with vehicles turning along with farm equipment utilizing the highway, slowing down our units costing us more to “get going” again. A blow out or other mechanical problem can be hazardous on a two-lane road as well. A wider shoulder on the four-lane would provide larger vehicles a place to merge onto, and remain until help arrives. This would once again be safer for all involved.

 

The town of Kirkwood could sure benefit from this as well. Perhaps this would make our town more attractive for businesses and families for an easier commute. For example, a gas station in our town would be very beneficial for the residents as well as commuters on the new Highway 34 expansion.

 

We are asking you to strongly consider the continuation of the four-lane highway on Highway 34. Hopefully you will find that this improvement will decrease the amount of accidents and fatalities, rebuild our smaller communities, and improve production for our businesses. After all isn’t saving one life worth it?

 

James L. Vollbracht, President

Vollbracht Trucking, Kirkwood, IL

 

Henderson County Highway Department, Stronghurst, IL

 

I wish to comment on the importance of the Highway 34 Coalition efforts to the area and to the safety of those traveling the stretch of highway in question.

 

I believe that we are seeing an increase in the traffic volume, especially trucks, since the bridge at Burlington has been replaced. I find myself waiting longer at intersections with 34 than was the case 12 years ago when I first started work in Henderson County. I also think that there will continue to be an increase in the traffic as Iowa improves their system of roads leading to Burlington. In my travels this past year I found myself frequently on Interstate 80 through Iowa. 1-80 seems to be carrying most of the east-west traffic through Iowa and appears to be reaching its design capacity. There is sufficient traffic on it to warrant drivers to seek alternate routes. One of these alternates will surely be Route 34 as it connects back to 1-74 at Galesburg. When this starts to happen the 22.5 miles of 34 through Henderson and Warren Counties will become the scene of major accidents.

 

I realize funding for this improvement is not readily available but urge the state to keep the improvement in the current programming. That way should the funds become available work could start on it in a timely manner.

 

Henderson County Highway Department

 

Carl Sandburg College, Galesburg, IL

 

Please be assured that Carl Sandburg College strongly supports the efforts of the Highway 34 Coalition to gain DOT funding for the completion of four-lane highway to connect Burlington, Iowa to Monmouth, Illinois. Our College District #518 covers over 3,000 square miles in all or parts of ten counties in west central Illinois. Highway 34 is an integral roadway for our students traveling from Warren and Henderson counties to our main campus in Galesburg. We also have a significant number of students who travel Highway 34 west to Burlington to attend Southeastern Community College through our cooperative agreement with them.

 

In addition to the importance of this highway to our students, we have many employees who equally depend on that road. From an economic development perspective, we certainly recognize how critical Highway 34 is to commercial and industrial traffic flow between west central Illinois and western Iowa. Please help to ensure that the completion of the Highway 34 four-lane is a priority for state and federal transportation dollars in the near future. We certainly hope that our legislators recognize the tremendous benefit to this region if the remaining 22 miles of four-lane highway were completed. If our College may be of further assistance in this effort, please advise.

 

Sherry L. Berg, Dean

Community & Extension Services

 

Henderson County Board, Oquawka, IL.

 

The economic interest in Henderson County depends largely on what happens in Burlington, IA area. Therefore, having a modern highway through West Central Illinois connecting us to this industrial hub is important.

 

If you look at a map of Illinois it is easily seen that our area of the state has been put on the back burner for years. We are down to 22.5 miles of highway improvements away from being connected to the interstate highway system with a four-lane road. As you are well aware, having a four-lane connection in this mobile society is a must. The four-lane connection will mean possible growth of our Mississippi River Transportation System.

 

I hope that you consider our concerns and keep the future plans for Route 34 in the five-year plan at IDOT.

 

In closing, I would like to express our appreciation for the improvement made to 34. We certainly appreciate the improved connection we now have to Burlington. But we still need to be connected to the remainder of the country through the interstate systems.

 

Marion Brown, Chairman

 

Chandler Trucking/CSR, Monmouth, IL

 

With the end of the year 2000 just around the corner, it is time to refocus our attention on the things that need to be accomplished to further our business endeavors. As a business that has recently taken on a major expansion project, we are very interested in the progress of the four-lane improvement project from Monmouth, Illinois to Burlington Iowa. It is vital to the future of our business that this project be completed as soon as possible.

 

Once located on the south end of Monmouth, Chandler Trucking moved to the former Munson Transportation building on the north edge of Monmouth in January of 2000. Many conversations with city and county leaders, including Gene Blade of the Partnership for Economic Develop­ment, had convinced us that the location just off of Route 34 would be ideal to further our expansion project.

 

In the summer of 2000, Chandler Salvage and Repair (CSR) was opened as a complete semi truck & trailer repair center, which also offers auto body services. It is imperative that the four-lane expansion of Route 34 to Burlington be completed to route business in to the area where we can benefit from the traffic. This will give truckers the opportunity to have much needed service done between visits to the home terminals, resulting in safer trucks and trailers on the road. Truckers coming out of Iowa will choose to use 34 to gain access to many of the area interstates with a minimum of traffic congestion. It will not only further our business endeavor, but also many of the service stations, retail businesses, motels and restaurants as well.

 

In relationship to our trucking operation, the completion of the four-lane expansion would be very beneficial, as we take loads out of Columbus Junction, Iowa on a regular basis. It would also improve safety as there are many areas currently that are non-passing zones. We often hear of collisions due to motorists trying to get around a semi in unsafe areas. The second lane could only improve those statistics.

The four-lane expansion of 34 to Burlington is an eagerly awaited benefit for not only our companies, but also many others. We hope that the Department of Transportation will do everything within its power to hasten to completion of the project. It may be the road that leads us to new prosperity in the next millennium.

 

James and Brenda Chandler, Owners

 

Western Illinois Economic Development Partnership Monmouth, IL

 

The Western Illinois Economic Development Partnership strongly supports the efforts of the Highway 34 Coalition. The 22.5-mile corridor of two-lane road between Burlington, IA and Monmouth,

 

IL is a critical link for commercial and industrial traffic that has exceeded its original capacity. The improvement to a four­lane transportation system would provide a tremendous benefit to economic development efforts and increased safety measures for residents of western Illinois.

 

Jolene Willis, Executive Director

Western Illinois Economic Development Partnership

 

Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce, Monmouth IL

 

The Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the efforts of the Highway 34 Coalition. Improving the stretch of highway between Burlington, IA and Monmouth, IL to a four-lane is vital to the Monmouth area. Specifically, the safety of the current two-lane is a concern, and having a new four lane would assist in the economic development efforts of the Monmouth Area.

 

Angela McElwee, Executive Director

Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce

 

Warren County Board, Monmouth, IL

 

This has been a long battle, but with help, one can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The investment of man-hours, planning and money has elevated this project to a “call for the question.”

 

The completion of US Highway 34 from just east of the Mississippi River at Burlington, Iowa to Monmouth, Illinois and a junction with Highway 67 and then 1-74 crossing the Heart of Illinois, is critical to the ever increasing traffic flow and the economic health and development of West Central Illinois.

 

Logic points to the last leg of US Highway 34 between the “Avenue of the Saints” in Iowa and 1-74 in Illinois! !

 

The Warren County Board is, and will remain a solid backer of the program started 36 years ago. You may never know how much the persistence and effort of Highway 34 Coalition. is appreciated!

 

Bill Reichow, Chairman

Warren County Board