KEWANEE — A proposed bike lane on Illinois 78 between Annawan and Kewanee may be getting a second look this year, but what it would look like is unknown.
Annawan Mayor Tim Wise, Kewanee City Manager Gary Bradley, and Henry County Board Chairman Marshall Jones have co-signed a letter of request for the Illinois Department of Transportation to look at the project. The Bi-State Regional Commission also played a role in the request.
County board member Roger Gradert mentioned it at the last county board meeting and said the plan would put Henry County in the middle of an excellent tourism opportunity.
“We are asking the IDOT to study the possibility of designating a shoulder of Illinois 78 between Kewanee and Annawan as a bike lane so that we can connect Kewanee, Sauk Trail State Park, and eventually the Swedish Trail to Bishop Hill and Rock Island Trail to Peoria to the national bike route on the Hennepin Canal,” he said via email.
Bradley said this week the bike lane designation is part of a trails master plan that goes back a couple of decades.
“I think the main driver for now was the idea there might be funding available through the capital bill that was part of the state's budget process,” he said. “The availability of funds was probably the driving force.”
In Kewanee, part of the idea is to link the Amtrak station with Johnson Sauk Trail State Park and the Hennepin Canal as part of a region-wide and national trail network, Bradley said.
“If I'm not mistaken, there are already 8-feet wide shoulders on that stretch,” he said.
He said he hasn't been a part of creating any bike trails in this area, but when he worked in suburban Kansas City, a half-cent transportation tax was implemented that brought improvements to hiking and biking trails. The letter sent to IDOT didn't ask for any new taxes, however.
“There's enough of that going around in Illinois,” Bradley said.
Becky Maruffo of the District 2 office of IDOT said Wednesday the 8-foot shoulders on Illinois 78 meet the requirement for non-motorized users, so they could accommodate bicycles. She said the people making the request could coordinate with special funding through IDOT's Local Roads Group.
Maruffo said IDOT is working on a response to the Henry County request.