City gets permission to use TEA-21 funds for wayside exhibits

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By Rich Bauer, Managing Editor

While the city of Vandalia has its downtown improvements project on hold, it is moving ahead with one facet of the plan to enhance the downtown.

The city has received permission from the Illinois Department of Transportation to use some of its federal TEA-21 project funds for the production and installation of its Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits.

On those 10 exhibits, formerly known as storyboards, Vandalia will present to local residents and tourists stories about Abraham Lincolns time in Vandalia.

Eight of the exhibits will be located within the downtown business district, five of which will be on the grounds of the Vandalia Statehouse.

A ninth exhibit will be located at the Old State Burial Ground, where some prominent people from the early days of Vandalia and Illinois are buried. The 10th board will be in Rogier Park, to mark the path that Abraham Lincoln took when traveling between Vandalia and Springfield.

In allowing the city to use TEA-21 funds for the eight exhibits to be installed downtown, IDOT is allowing the city to also bid out the project. That means the city wont have to wait for an IDOT bid letting.

The city will pay the materials and installation costs for the remaining two boards.

Mayor Rick Gottman said the city is receiving quotes from two local contractors for the installation of exhibit bases and the installation of the exhibits once they are manufactured.

Under state guidelines, the same company is producing the exhibits being created for all Looking for Lincoln communities. In addition to Vandalia, Looking for Lincoln communities are Springfield, Decatur, Beardstown, Bloomington/Normal, Charleston/Lerna, Galesburg, Lincoln, Mahomet, Mt. Pulaski, New Salem/Petersburg, Pittsfield and Taylorville.

Local historian Dale Timmermann, who has chaired the local Looking for Lincoln subcommittee charged with creating the text for the exhibits, said that all 10 of the Lincoln stories he has drafted have been sent to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Eight of those stories have been reviewed by a state historian and are in their final format. The other two are awaiting review.

Timmermann also said he is working to obtain graphics that will be used on the exhibits and to get those graphics into electronic form, so they can be sent on to the IHPA.

Gottman said the city doesnt have a specific timetable for the installation of the exhibits, mainly because it doesnt how long it will take to get them from the company.

Wed like to get them done and up within six months, in time for the tourists who come to town, Gottman said. Wed love to have them up in time for this years Grande Leve (on Fathers Day weekend in June).

Vandalias wayside exhibits will includes stories about:

Abraham Lincoln beginning his career in politics in Vandalia, as a state representative from Sangamon County.

Lincoln beginning to speak out against slavery while serving in the Vandalia Statehouse.

The efforts of Lincoln and other members of The Long Nine to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield.

The travels to and from Vandalia by Lincoln and other Illinois legislators.