Future city projects aimed at helping to improve Rochelle’s walkability

Multiple city projects are in the works for the future to improve the Rochelle's walkability, including sidewalk improvement and potential shared-use paths.

‘Our primary focus is trying to create connections between places of destination’

ROCHELLE — At its first April meeting the Rochelle City Council unanimously accepted a bid from Bruns Construction, Inc. for $360,000 for its 2022 sidewalk/pedestrian path improvements that will include segments of Wood Street, Avenue G, Second Avenue, South Sixth Street, North Second Street and Scott Avenue.

City Engineer Sam Tesreau said that for the past 19 years that he’s been with the city, sidewalk funding has mostly increased year over year. The city tries to address different areas of town and the condition of sidewalks is the main factor when looking at improvements. 

“We're trying to provide continuity between businesses, residences and commercial areas,” Tesreau said. “We also want to focus on trying to provide pedestrian access to industrial areas or places of work to provide people an alternative mode of transportation."

Other city projects are in the works for the future to improve walkability including the construction of a shared-use path along the edge of Fairways Golf Course along Illinois Route 251 from Cleveland Avenue up to Washington Street, Tesreau said. 

The city engineer said in today’s society, it seems like there’s a need for more shared use paths. In the past, the city has tried to focus more on its existing sidewalks rather than creating new ones due to paths the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District put in and worked with for a number of years. 

“However, there are places where it seems to make more sense to create a shared-use path as a collector for pedestrians,” Tesreau said. “Again, there's a number of variables that go into it, but I think our primary focus is trying to create connections between places of destination. There's a disconnect there that is not being provided along Illinois Route 251, which is a state route. We're looking at another alternative to get that same path in connection between the south side of town and the downtown area."

The shared-use path along the perimeter of the golf course has been an ongoing conversation for the past few years and Tesreau and Fairways Superintendent Mitch Hamilton have discussed how to best incorporate the path into the golf course setting. 

Tesreau and Hamilton believe there can be some synergies between the golf course and pedestrian shared-use path. 

“It will kind of meander through the golf course, but along the edge of it and it will connect up to Cleveland Avenue and over to Washington Street via an existing walkway bridge near the curve on Washington Street,” Tesreau said. “In the future we'd be looking at a new bridge over the Kyte Creek, but permitting for bridges takes a long time through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and other agencies."

Tesreau said in an unrelated project, the city also has future plans to put in a bridge separate from the existing Illinois Route 38 bridge over the Kyte Creek. It would be on the north side, due to the fact that there’s currently no pedestrian way on the north side of Illinois Route 38. That is another state-owned route.

“I've had contact with the Illinois Department of Transportation over the years about incorporating a pedestrian crossing onto the existing bridge to no avail,” Tesreau said. “So, our only other approach is acquire an easement through there off of the Illinois Route 38 right of way and then build our own pedestrian bridge. That would allow connection over to Currency Court and then ultimately over to Caron Road to allow another connection to that commercial area around Walmart."

Another future project that could improve walkability in Rochelle is the future reconstruction of Illinois Route 251 on the north side of town from Fairview Drive to south of the new Starbucks. City officials spend time lobbying IDOT to move forward with the project. 

Illinois Route 251 would be widened to five lanes with two northbound and two southbound and a bidirectional lane in the middle. Curb and gutter will be included in the project. Tesreau said there are plans to incorporate sidewalks along Illinois Route 251 to connect Flagg Road with Illinois Route 38. 

“In addition to that, there's going to be an off-site shared-use path that will ultimately run up to Flagg Road via North Eighth Street and then behind RP Home & Harvest,” Tesreau said. “And then there's a short piece of path up there along Flagg Road that that will connect to. And then as things develop along that corridor out there, we will incorporate a shared use path into that too to get out to the high school."

Shared-use path projects will come out of the city’s yearly sidewalk/pedestrian path improvements budget that is typically between $350,000-400,000 annually. IDOT’s Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project will be about $9 million, Tesreau said. The sidewalk portion of that project will likely cost the city in the neighborhood of $500,000. 

“We do have some responsibility to pay for sidewalks on a state route if we desire new sidewalks,” Tesreau said. “The state will pay a portion of that, but ultimately it will probably be about $500,000 for the city."

Tesreau believes the city has made “great strides” with walkability for a community of Rochelle’s size and the budget it has available to do sidewalk work. He believes walkability is very important for a community to provide walking access to places of destination including schools. 

“There's miles and miles of sidewalks throughout the city,” Tesreau said. “We're just trying to keep up with the replacement of the worst-conditioned sidewalks and at the time to expand our pedestrian walkway system as well. We've replaced over a million square feet of sidewalk just within the past 19 years. That's huge for a community of our size. I believe right now Chicago for comparison has about $3.5 million they use for sidewalk replacement, but they have over two million people."