Normal council approves grant funding for underpass project

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Normal leaders approved to accept grant money from the federal and state governments that will finance more than 90% of the Uptown Normal underpass project.

The vote was six yes votes and one no vote. Councilman Stan Nord was the lone no vote.

The underpass project is estimated to cost around $23 million with 93% funded by federal grants, as well as Rebuild Illinois money. According to the Town, the underpass will provide safer and more convenient access from Uptown Normal to Normal’s southend.

The underpass will be built under the Union Pacific railroad tracks, eliminating the potential for pedestrians to disobey traffic signals, as well as significantly reduce the risk of accidents.

The council heard from multiple public commenters, with most supporting the idea of the project.

Councilmember Kevin McCarthy said he fully supports the project and that town staff deserve credit for getting it done at a reasonable price.

“If we say no, your taxes don’t go down because those taxes are gone. If we say no tonight another community builds something they want with our tax dollars in their community. That’s what happens,” McCarthy said.

Councilwoman Chemberly Cummings also said a “yes” vote is a thank you to the legislators, both federal and state, for making Normal a priority and working together in a bipartisan manner to secure the funding.

“Whether we like the use of tax dollars because it’s your money, so you say, it’s going to be earmarked already and if it doesn’t come back here, it’s going to somebody else’s city,” Cummings said.

Nord, the lone no vote, argued the project was not a priority, rather a “luxury” purchase. He voiced concerns about the construction costs not yet being present in the town budget.

Nord also said he would like to see the town focus on other issues, such as sewage issues and roads.

Construction on the project won’t start for at least a year and a half.

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