IDOT approval needed before changes made

By Amy Goldhagen

Although NIU and DeKalb have approved preliminary plans to rebuild Lucinda Avenue, final approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation is necessary before funding can be appropriated.

Ralph Tompkins, DeKalb assistant director of engineering services, said the plan is designed to accommodate increased traffic flow and improve the area’s appearance.

Plans include widening Lucinda Avenue and installing a landscaped median to divide the flow of traffic, but the street still will accommodate only one traffic lane in each direction.

The project proposes landscaped islands on a median and on both sides of the street where possible, he said. Landscaping the entire median is impossible because of left turn lanes which will be installed for intersecting streets, he said. The plan also includes pedestrian walkways on each side to accommodate the heavy flow of students.

James Harder, NIU business and operations vice president, said NIU and the city are working together on the project, but the city has the primary responsibility for its completion. “We are making every effort to accomodate the city in the widening of the street, while the city is taking our aesthetic concerns very seriously,” he said.

Harder said the city has based much of the renovation plans on NIU’s Sasaki Plan, which addresses short- and long-term campus improvements and includes a renovation plan for Lucinda Avenue.

Tompkins said the approved plans have been resubmitted to the city’s engineering department, which will submit them to the Illinois Department of Transportation, a state agency which oversees most transportation projects within the state and allocates funding for construction.

“Approval from the Department of Transportation is expected by the end of the year, which will allow us to prepare our technical plans and specifications,” Tompkins said.

The city plans to bid for the project next summer, with tenative construction beginning next fall. The majority of the construction, however, is slated for spring and summer 1991.

Construction most likely will take more than one year because of plans to keep at least one lane open at all times, Tompkins said. Construction planned for fall 1990 will be limited primarily to underground work, he said.

“These represent our most optimistic projections,” said Tompkins. “We still have many details to work out, including land that must be acquired. This cannot be taken care of until we receive an actual budget.”

The project’s estimated $2.3 million budget will come primarily from state and federal funds. DeKalb City Manager Mark Stevens said federal funds will pay for part of the project, leaving the rest to DeKalb and NIU.

Stevens said the allocations will come from Federal Aid Urban, funded through the Federal Highway Administration. This money is given to states, which then allocates it through their own transportation departments.

Tompkins estimates more than $1 million will come from DeKalb and NIU, but no actual dollar amount has been determined. Funding from NIU will be used primarily for appearance renovations, including a “pedestrian mall” on the south side of Lucinda Avenue.

Both groups are working to keep the campus and local businesses as accessible as possible, keeping the inconvenience of the construction to a minimum, Harder said.