It is recognized that the recent economic downturn has caused employment to decline in McLean County, in the State of Illinois, and in the U.S. The population and employment forecasts were revised from the previous Corridor Study in light of the recent economic downturn. Even with revised forecasts, there is a continued need to plan for this project.
As the EA progresses, the most current national, state, and local census data and employment/population trends will be used to ensure that the growth rates are credible. The project team continues to monitor various resources to verify the forecasts. Additional sources used for employment forecasting include Woods & Poole Economic and the Illinois Department of Employment Security, with the latter providing monthly updates of employment conditions. The ESH is being planned to accommodate Year 2035 traffic. It is important to plan for the future so that when the need occurs, there is a transportation system in place that can accommodate the growth. Should that growth not be realized, the highway construction schedule can be adjusted.
It is acknowledged that growth will occur throughout the Bloomington-Normal urbanized area – on all sides of the community. The goal of the East Side Highway EA is to identify improvements necessary on the east side which will accommodate managed growth and address future mobility and safety needs. As needs are identified and funding becomes available Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County will strive to be proactive accommodating planned growth throughout the community. For example, on the west side studies have been completed for the extension of Mitsubishi Motorway south of IL 9.
In comparing the 2035 land use plan with current conditions, there are additional future areas of growth anticipated that have yet to be developed. The 2035 land use plan for the Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area may be accessed via computer at: http://www.mcplan.org/transportation/long_range/longrangeplan.html
The land use plan was developed based upon historical growth trends in McLean County since 1970. Over this period of time the population in this area has grown at a rate of approximately 1.2% per year. The 2035 land use plan assumes a growth rate similar to this. It has been noted that the Great Recession of 2008-2009 has caused employment to decline in McLean County, Illinois, and the U.S. However, the unemployment rate for the Bloomington-Normal Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (McLean County) is the lowest among all Illinois MSA’s. As the EA progresses the study team will use the most current census data and employment trends to ensure the growth rates are credible.
The Bloomington-Normal metropolitan area has been expanding to the east for some time. The metro area’s comprehensive plan designates continued land development and growth to the east. The East Side Highway will be needed to support this eastern development, planned by the Bloomington, Normal, McLean County, and the public. A road can induce sprawl when not built as part of a comprehensive land development strategy. Carefully coordinated and planned roads are among the most effective means of implementing desired plans for harmonious land use development. This study is designed to coordinate land use and transportation planning, while meeting future mobility needs, minimizing future levels of congestion, and promoting transportation safety within the study area. Adopted comprehensive plans for the area formed the basis for predicting future travel demand requirements and have been integral in this planning process.
The land use plan was developed based upon historical growth trends in McLean County since 1970 and recent national estimates and forecasts. It has been noted that the recent economic downturn has caused employment to decline in McLean County, Illinois, and the U.S. As the EA progresses, the most current national, state, and local census data and employment/population trends will be used to ensure that the growth rates are credible. The 2011 national forecast for all states and counties was used as an input to the EA (Woods & Poole Economics) and cites Bloomington-Normal as an “area which (is) expected to have relatively rapid employment and population growth over the next three decades.
Through the Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process, the public will be involved at every major step of the project development. The Purpose and Need Statement, which was developed with stakeholder input during the Corridor Study, will be refined based on public input, the alternatives will be developed based on public input, and the criteria used to evaluate the alternatives will be developed using public input. Stakeholders are encouraged to sign up for the advisory groups so they can work directly with the project team throughout the project process. The project team will post project documents on the East Side Highway website for public review as the project progresses. The study is being conducted in an open and transparent manner, based on factual information. As the EA progresses, the project documents will be updated with the most current data available. The data source references will be listed in project documents.
The funding for this project comes from the “Illinois Jobs Now!” Capital Bill. The Illinois Jobs Now! program specifically identified funds for preliminary engineering on the East Side Highway. Capital Bill funds can only be used for projects specifically identified by the legislature or the governor’s office. For more information on the “Illinois Jobs Now!” program visit the website at: http://www2.illinois.gov/jobsnow/Pages/default.aspx
The need for this project is based on the inability of the current transportation system to accommodate projected traffic volumes and provide access for the future growth on the east side of the Bloomington-Normal area.