Engineering has begun for Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project

IDOT-owned route project could begin in 2024 or 2025

Jeff Helfrich
Posted 2/21/22

Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said last week that engineering has begun on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project through the northern part of town.

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Engineering has begun for Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project

IDOT-owned route project could begin in 2024 or 2025

Posted

ROCHELLE — Rochelle City Manager Jeff Fiegenschuh said last week that engineering has begun on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Illinois Route 251 reconstruction project through the northern part of town.

The deteriorating portion of the state-owned route through town 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.

“The project gets done when they determine it,” Fiegenschuh said. “We think right now it's looking like the engineering has begun on the project and plans for the project should be finalized by July 2023. It's a pretty significant project. There's right of way purchases they need to make. Last time we talked to them, they said it could be 2024 or 2025 before the project even starts."

One of City Engineer Sam Tesreau’s top priorities is making sure the project gets done, Fiegenschuh said. Those were the dates given during the city’s last quarterly meeting with the IDOT. Fiegenschuh said the city hopes to expedite the process and there are things it can do to try to speed up the process. 

“We're going to start meeting with our lawmakers and trying to get them to help with it,” Fiegenschuh said. “At the end of the day, it's on IDOT's timeline. It gets done when they have the money and they have everything ready to go."

The city has done its best to keep lines of communication open with IDOT staff, which Fiegenschuh called important for a project like this one. 

Phase one of the project was completed in 2009 at the intersection of Flagg Road and Illinois Route 251. That went from the Illinois Route 251 bridge down to Fairview Drive. Tesreau has said in the past that the rest of the project was shelved due to funding. 

Tesreau has also said in the past that he believes construction would take “a little over a year” to complete. The city would be responsible for adding things like sidewalks and street lighting in the project. 

In the past, the city has fielded complaints about the condition of the road, namely in the past couple of winters with issues brought about by snow and ice.  

The state will have to do some right of way acquisition to widen the road. 

“An example is Hickory Grove, they're going to have to purchase some portion of that front parking area,” Fiegenschuh said. “Which I don't think the city will have any problem with, because a widening of that road and having sidewalks in there is going to have greater pedestrian access and in the long term it's going to be better for every business on that route."

Fiegenschuh said he’s excited for the future of that area of town after other recent and future improvements such as the construction of The REC Center, the new Starbucks and the demolition and future development of Hickory Grove. Reconstructing that stretch of road will add further value to the area. 

"It will just look better, for one,” Fiegenschuh said. “It will be safer. Just increasing safety is important. It will allow for more pedestrian traffic to go along that corridor and connect the Flagg Road sidewalks all the way down to Starbucks. That opens up that entire corridor to pedestrian overflow. That intersection at Illinois Route 251 and Illinois Route 38 can be scary at times for pedestrians. Certainly, safety is the most important part."

Fiegenschuh said the city will continue to work with the IDOT and be a partner with it to try to see the project done sooner rather than later. 

“But again, it's based on funding and it's based on their ability to do acquisition of property and right of way,” Fiegenschuh said. “And those things don't happen overnight. That's why their time frame is further out. But we're going to continue to work with them and communicate with them and do everything we can to help move that project forward."