Voice your opinion on Route 51 bypass

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Our Opinion

By Dave Bell

If you were among the crowd of people milling around the huge maps spread on tabletops at last Wednesday’s public hearing on the route of the U.S. Route 51 bypass around Vandalia, you probably came to the conclusion that most of us did: That there is no perfect alternative for a bypass.
There’s not even a good one.
The reason is that regardless which route you choose, someone’s property is being compromised. Someone’s quality of life is being diminished.
Through previous public hearings and research by Illinois Department of Transportation officials, the public was presented with four alternatives. These descriptions all assume the motorist is approaching Vandalia from the north.
• The first option follows the current course of U.S. Route 51 to I-70, and parallels the interstate to the west. It goes past the western I-70 interchange and then curves to the south and east through the river bottoms and rejoins the current U.S. Route 51 south of Vandalia near Woodyard.
• The second and third options depart from the current path of U.S. Route 51 north of the Vandalia Correctional Center, going west of VCC and curving to the west through residential areas along Zent Drive (one farther north than the other) and then they parallel Airport Road before joining the path of the first option west of the western I-70 interchange.
• The fourth option departs from the current path of U.S. Route 51 well north of VCC – somewhere in the area of the Vera Road and angles to the southwest – eventually going completely around the west end of Vandalia Lake and the airport before angling back to the southeast to join the other three routes west of the western I-70 interchange.
Regardless of the route selected, homes, farms and businesses will be affected. The question before us now is which one negatively impacts us the least? Sticking with the current U.S. Route 51 route would wipe out a number of houses near the correctional center when the road is transformed into a four-lane highway. Angling across Thrill Hill and going west puts Deerwood Estates and other developments along Zent Drive in the crosshairs. And the country bypass around the lake plays havoc with farms and homes.
It’s true. There is no perfect alternative. IDOT officials have said for years that Vandalia presents one of the most difficult bypass scenarios of all the communities they’ve dealt with on the U.S. Route 51 project. With the river on the east, the lake on the west and the correctional center on the north, there are difficult choices everywhere you look.
But there’s still time to have your voice heard. IDOT is accepting comments until Monday, April 21. You have three options by which to submit your thoughts:
Mail: Clark Dietz Inc., Attn: Jerry Payonk, 125 W. Church Street, Champaign, Ill. 61820.
E-mail: US51EIS@clark-dietz.com.
Fax: 217-373-8923.
It’s up to us to make our preferences known. If we don’t bother to get involved, we have no right to complain when an alternative is chosen that isn’t to our liking.
IDOT officials have notified citizens that this is the final opportunity for input before a route is selected. Don’t let the opportunity pass.