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8/9/2013 2:37:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
LV council shows support for four-lane Route 50 project
LAWRENCEVILLE - The Lawrenceville City Council looked to the future at its monthly meeting Thursday, showing support for a four-lane U.S. Route 50 and moving forward with a long-term city plan.

After getting an update from Charlie Gillespie, a Lawrence County representative to the U.S. 50 coalition, the council voted to support the endeavor with a $900 donation.

The U.S. 50 expressway project calls for turning U.S. 50 into a four-lane highway from just east of Lawrenceville to O'Fallon, where Route 50 intersects with Interstate 64.

Gillespie stressed that a completed project will mean economic revitalization for the region.

The first phase of the project runs through Lawrence County and calls turning a 27 mile stretch of Route 50 into a four-lane highway from 3.5 miles east of Lawrenceville to 2.5 miles west of Illinois Route 130 at Olney.

In addition to its annual donation, Mayor Don Wagner and councilman Jep Blacketer, along with Lawrence County Board Chairman Bill Gray, will accompany Gillespie to an important meeting of the group Tuesday at McKendree College in Lebanon.

Gillespie, a former city council and county board member who has been with the coalition since its inception in 2006, talked about the importance of Tuesday's meeting.

"Senator Durbin will be the guest there. We'll be asking him some hard questions about where we should go with our expectations of federal aid for this road," Gillespie said, noting that the group has a grasp on where they are with the state, but needs continued federal support.

Gillespie called Durbin the second most powerful man in the United States Senate, noting that he is also a native of southern Illinois, hailing from East St. Louis.

"He cares about us. He's been with this from the very beginning. Durbin is related so powerfully to other people on committees that get money for federal highways," Gillespie said. "We'll just do our best to keep the pressure on and keep viable and alive our cause for a four lane 50, which will start a little bit at a time. We have about 118 miles, so we'll stay at it."

The project was actually started more than 40 years ago, but died in 1978. It was revamped in 2006 with the coalition that includes representatives from Lawrence, Richland, Clay and Marion counties. Recently, Clinton County came on board and St. Clair County has joined the coalition.

The estimated cost to complete all engineering, land acquisition, utility adjustments and construction a four-lane divided highway over the 27-mile phase one through portions of Lawrence and Richland counties ranges from $728 to $800 million.

Phase 1 engineering for location, environmental and design studies for the section of U.S. 50 from east of Lawrenceville to west of Olney began in March of 2011 and is in progress. Archaeological surveys have been completed.





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