State is in engineering phase of Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project

City of Rochelle Engineer Sam Tesreau said Wednesday that the Illinois Department of Transportation is in the engineering phase of an Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project through the northern part of town.

City engineer estimates final plans could be done in August 2023

ROCHELLE — City of Rochelle Engineer Sam Tesreau said Wednesday that the Illinois Department of Transportation is in the engineering phase of an Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project through the northern part of town.

The deteriorating portion of the state-owned route will see a widening to five lanes with bidirectional turn lanes from Fairview Drive south to the location of the new Starbucks. City officials meet with the IDOT quarterly to discuss the future project. The IDOT owns and maintains the route and city officials hope to see it reconstructed as soon as possible.

Tesreau said the state is determining right of way needs for what it will need to acquire for the project and at least a dozen parcels will need to be acquired.

"They are talking about preliminary plans by April of next year,” Tesreau said. “And then we'll start reviewing those for any utility items that need to be relocated within the right of way to accommodate the future construction needs. And then final plans will probably be four months after that. I'm going to say in August of 2023 we'll have final plans done.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean construction will start during or just after August 2023, Tesreau said. Right of way acquisition can sometimes be a lengthy process, he said. 

Tesreau said he feels positive about the project moving forward. It’s been almost 18 years since the city engineer wrote his first letter to IDOT about concerns with the stretch of road. The city also has plans to put pedestrian walkways in the area when the project eventually occurs.

“It's been positive so far and the coordination meetings are helping and we're trying to push them along and be helpful to them in whatever capacity we can,” Tesreau said. “Because it's important to the community as much as it is to IDOT. We'd like to see all of that improved through there and urbanized and allow that corridor to develop so that it's beneficial and good for the city in terms of sales tax and property tax and development overall."

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said the city’s effort to see the stretch of road reconstructed has included talking to state lawmakers and requesting the quarterly meetings. He wants the state to continue to understand the importance of the project to the city.

Fiegenschuh is happy that the state plans to reconstruct and widen the route. Tesreau believes the reconstruction could last 18-20 years before more maintenance is needed.

“It will look a lot better having a widened road with new street lighting and banners,” Fiegenschuh said. “I love the idea of having additional pedestrian access. That's the part I'm most excited about so people can get around from basically Flagg Road all the way down past Illinois Route 38.”

Tesreau said short-term maintenance by the state ahead of the reconstruction is “simply not an option” at this point due to the condition of the road and short-term maintenance money won’t be put towards it by the state due to plans for a full-scale reconstruction.

The city has a minor maintenance agreement with IDOT that includes simple pothole patching and some snow plowing and striping.

“This piece is long beyond maintenance now,” Tesreau said. “For us, it will mean less maintenance of a new facility along that stretch. It should be noted that the city is going to participate in the cost of this with the construction of the sidewalks, because that's important to us, and then the new streetlights that will be down through there. That will be a really nice addition to that corridor.”

Tesreau called the 18 years he’s waited for improvements to the stretch of road “extremely frustrating.” Getting back on track now has been encouraging for him to see.

“It can be frustrating to see other state routes under construction around the area,” Tesreau said. “We've been asking for our share of the money for a long time now and we're not there yet for construction. Just to see the actual development of the plans coming together and such, that's the biggest piece of it. I've always said that once you get to construction, that's the easy part.”