Lucinda reconstruction might cost NIU

By Caryn Rosenberg

NIU might have to cough up an additional $355,000 for the reconstruction of Lucinda Avenue after the DeKalb City Council voted for a more expensive option last week.

Seven alternatives for the Lucinda reconstruction project were presented at last week’s meeting. Each option required full reconstruction, but varied in number of phases, distance, lane size, lane number and median options.

With one council member, Second Ward Alderman Mike Welch, missing, the vote was tied 3-3 between two alternatives. One option would cost $2.3 million with three lanes, no median and an NIU contribution of $180,000. The other option cost $2.96 million with two lanes, a landscaped median and a $535,000 contribution from NIU.

However, DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow broke the tie with a vote for the more expensive option.

Sparrow said he made his choice because he felt “the aesthetics” of the completed project would outweigh the cost. The decision is not something that should be looked at only on the basis of economics, he added.

“We’re talking about $300,000 over a 20-year life, and to me I think the difference in price is justified in terms of getting a better product,” Sparrow said. “It’s a small price to pay for the longevity of what it’s going to look like.”

NIU must come up with its portion of the reconstruction costs by May 1. If the university is not able to do so, the alternative plan with smaller lanes and no median will be used instead.

However, Sparrow said he doesn’t think NIU will have trouble coming up with the extra money required for reconstruction. He said Eddie Williams, vice president of Finance and Planning, is planning to get the money from NIU’s revenue bonds, which are waiting to be refinanced.

“By refinancing the bonds, NIU would be able to generate more funds,” Sparrow said. “(The amount) shouldn’t be a problem.”

Williams was not available for comment last week.

Sparrow said his view is consistent with that of the university.

“NIU put in a lot of time and effort to contribute to the congruative look of the campus,” Sparrow said. “This alternative was the best for what we could afford to do.”

The alternative chosen would be done in two phases and consists of two 15-foot through lanes and a 16-foot landscaped median from Annie Glidden Road to Normal Road.

As a result, Sparrow said he thought the student aldermen on the DeKalb City Council would share his view.

“I was shocked that the three students voted against it because the project is tied in close to the university and the campus,” Sparrow said. “It was just a goofy vote to me.”

First Ward Alderman Amy Polzin said she thinks the plan itself is a good one, but she added that could not vote for it because of the cost.

Seventh Ward Alderman Jordan Kagan said he had two reasons for voting against this construction alternative.

“This alternative has wider streets and additional lighting, but the cost is 30 percent higher,” Kagan said. “I think the $300,000 difference could be used to repair other streets.”

He said the money could be applied to repairing areas which endure heavy bus traffic, such as the circle drive in front of DuSable Hall.

Kagan said the second reason he voted against this alternative is because it would limit access to Lucinda.

“The purpose of the median is for safety, but it could be detrimental,” Kagan said. “People in Neptune and the new apartments won’t be able to turn left.”