Highway proposal to the Metro East gains traction - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Highway proposal to the Metro East gains traction

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MURPHYSBORO -- A highway connecting southern Illinois to the Metro East has been discussed for decades but lawmakers believe now's the time to get moving on the project.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) believes a four-lane highway between Murphysboro and the Metro East is doable, especially given President Donald Trump's push for more infrastructure projects.

"This is the type of project that the president's proposal would be perfect (for) and what I want to do is have all the work done so we are ready to have this project evaluated," Schimpf said.

Schimpf joined a grassroots group that wants to build the highway, branding their effort the "Southwest Illinois Connector."

He said the highway would have many benefits.

"I think that's going to be necessary for the long-term viability of SIU Carbondale," Schimpf said. "I think Carbondale needs to be connected to the Metro East."

He also said the highway would ease congestion on Interstate 57 and it would help the Kaskaskia Port District.

Schimpf also pointed out it would make the trip quicker and easier from Murphysboro to St. Louis.

"When you do make that drive, you do lose a lot of time going through a town where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour," Schimpf said. "I think a four-lane highway would be something that would significantly reduce travel time."

Schimpf admitted the project needs federal money, but state dollars should be available, especially since Gov. Bruce Rauner wants another highway connecting the Chicago area to Wisconsin.

"As if they didn't already have enough interstates up there already," Schimpf said.

Some in Pinckneyville complained the highway could divert traffic away from the city.

State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) said it shouldn't impact the town much and it could actually bring in more businesses.

"If you are a developer and you know you're going to have semis coming in and out of your properties, are you going to pick a place that has a four-lane or are you going to pick a place that has a two-lane?" Bryant asked.

Bryant said it could be another decade before we actually see the expanded highway.

She said the highway from Columbia to Waterloo has already been expanded and the highway expansion between Murphysboro and Pinckneyville is already planned, it just needs money to get off the ground.

The section between Pinckneyville and Waterloo hasn't been figured out yet.

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