Truck_Corridor1.jpgKENT KRIEGSHAUSER/The Register-Mail

A tractor-trailer travelling west on I-74 crosses under U.S. 34 as a van proceeds east on 34 above. Several planning commissions have proposed developing a new highway system utilizing U.S. 34 west into Iowa as an alternative to the traditional I-74/I-80 route.

Interstate alternative touted

Expanded Iowa/Illinois corridor could spur development, say some


Farmers Forecast

Sunday, February 25, 2007

GALESBURG - A public input meeting at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Galesburg Public Library will be one of the first steps in explaining the importance of a highway system dubbed the Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor.

The Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, Area 15 Regional Planning Commission, Central Iowa Regional Transportation Planning Alliance and the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization have developed the study. Those organizations believe the corridor, stretching from Galesburg to Pleasant Hill (Polk County, Iowa), utilizing U.S. 34, U.S. 63 and Iowa 163 "would provide a viable alternative to the Interstate 74 and Interstate 80 Corridor, particularly for shipments between the Midwestern and Southeastern sections of the United States."

The study came about after the Upper Midwest Freight Corridor Study failed to include the Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor. The study contends the corridor through Galesburg, west-central Illinois, southeast Iowa, into central Iowa, has travel times comparable to the interstates, because it is less congested. Although the study team acknowledged it "had no fair way to compare the Interstate 74 and Interstate 80 Corridor with the Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor" in terms of safety, the team still concluded the lesser traffic volume offers "a safer corridor with less potential for crashes."

The study also seeks to educate the public as to the corridor's freight-carrying and economic development potential.

"The whole idea is to develop and preserve (the character of) this burgeoning corridor between Galesburg and Des Moines," said Mike Norris of the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.

According to the study, projections indicate I-74 and I-80 will be approaching traffic capacity by 2020.

"The Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor is projected to have a much lower and slower growth in traffic volume," the study concluded.

According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, the I-74/I-80 Corridor has annual average daily traffic of 28,926 vehicles, compared to just 8,402 on the Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor. Truck traffic levels on I-74/I-80 are 8,784, compared to 1,188 on the Trans-Iowa/ Illinois corridor. Projections are truck traffic will increase by 30.4 percent by 2020 on the interstates, with a projected increase on the freight corridor of just 14.1 percent.

A key to developing U.S. 34 and the other highways into Iowa as an alternative to I-74 and I-80 is widening the suggested alternative to four lanes between Galesburg and the Des Moines area. Iowa is far ahead of Illinois in this regard, with U.S. 34, U.S. 63 and Iowa 163 slated to be divided four-lane highway by 2008. In Illinois, a 25-mile stretch between Monmouth and Carman Road, three miles east of Burlington, Iowa, still needs to be expanded to four lanes. However, that means 90 percent of the corridor will be four lanes by 2008.

"Optimistically, the study team believes that the full corridor will be a four-lane highway in five to 10 years, from Interstate 74 in Galesburg ... to U.S. 65 in Pleasant Hill, Iowa," according to the report.

"We're hoping if we can generate some momentum on the Iowa side, it will help the Illinois side," Norris said.

Norris explained why the organizations feel the link from I-74 in Galesburg to I-35 and I-80 in metropolitan Des Moines is important to the region.

"When you look at how much our economy relies on truck freight transportation, any link to a limited access highway is important," he said.

The planning organizations believe increased truck traffic will act as a stimulus for economic development.

The study area, a 210-mile corridor, includes three Illinois counties - Knox, Warren and Henderson - as well as 10 counties in Iowa.

Galesburg and Monmouth are in Sub-Area 4, as is Henderson County. The area is projected to see an 8.9 percent population decline through 2030, but employment growth of 3.4 percent. The study team wants local governments in the area to update land use and access management policies to anticipate and accommodate increased traffic flow in this area.

"One only needs to look at the Monmouth ... bypass to observe how unregulated growth can inhibit freight movements in to and out from the Monmouth ... area and ultimately affecting freight movement along the Trans-Iowa/Illinois Freight Corridor," according to the study.

Another recommendation for this area fits well with economic development plans being pursued in Galesburg.

"Sub-Area 4 should evaluate potential intermodal connections to take advantage of the connection to the (BNSF Railway) main line and rail hub, and the Mississippi River barge terminals," according to the study.

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