By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — City Council members have approved a new five-year capital plan that overhauls some of the city’s busiest streets and put a bigger focus on resurfacing neighborhood roadways.
The council voted 12-0 Monday night to approve the $322 capital plan, which is the largest in city history. Last year’s five-year plan totaled more than $311 million, and this year’s plan is a continuation of many of the projects laid out a year ago as well as several new infrastructure items.
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“You are going to see hundreds of neighborhood blocks being resurfaced and restructured, you’re going to see major capital improvements if it’s on Madison Street, Whitman Street, the 11th Street corridor and Alpine Road,” Mayor Tom McNamara said in an interview on This Week in the Stateline. “You’re going to see more bridge repairs and replacements. You’re going to see more stormwater and drainage improvements. We obviously have lots of maintenance going on, as well investing more into our sidewalks and multiuse paths.”
The projects are funded primarily by the city’s 1% sales tax for roads an infrastructure, motor fuel tax funds and state and federal grants.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest projects happening through 2028:
Church and Main streets two-way conversion
One-way stretches of Church and Main streets will be converted into two-way streets between Cedar and John streets in downtown Rockford.
The plan, which has been in the works for years, is slated to move forward next year.
The $9 million project is paid for with $6.5 million in state funds and $2.5 million from the city’s road tax. The city would also take over jurisdiction of Main Street from the state once work is complete.
“Church Street would remain the state route and Main Street would become a local street, which we feel is very, very important for our downtown,” said Kyle Saunders, the city’s director of Public Works.
Alderman Frank Beach said before the vote that while he was supporting the overall capital plan he was not in favor of converting Church Street to two-way traffic.
Whitman Street reconstruction
The city plans a full reconstruction of Whitman Street from Church Street west to Avon Street.
The estimated $9 million project will include rebuilding the roadway, sidewalk repairs and realignment of the road at the curve, as well as water utility upgrades. The city also plans to extend the Mel B. Anderson recreation path to the Rock River path along the south side of the roadway.
That project is scheduled for fall.
Neighborhood street improvements
The city will begin a new pavement preservation program designed to extend the life of neighborhood roads without rebuilding the roadway.
“We’re looking at implementing more lower-cost, microsurfacing options,” Saunders said. “There’s certainly a window of pavement condition that we’re able to do this on, but it should allow us to do an additional 80 blocks a year.”
The city typically does about 100 neighborhood roadway improvements each year, and in the new capital plan it will dedicate about $2.5 million more into neighborhood streets than past years.
The plan calls for about $35 million spent on the neighborhood program.
“A full resurfacing is milling off two inches of pavement and putting back two inches,” Saunders said. “With microsurfacing we’re not milling anything, so we don’t have to mobilize a milling machine, and we save a lot of money there.”
Saunders said it helps extend the life of existing roads and gives a smooth driving surface.
“We’re really laying on top of the existing pavement about a quarter-inch thick microsurface,” Saunders said. “It provides structure, but it doesn’t require curb and cutter work.”
The first phase of rebuilding Madison Street in downtown will begin next year.
That work includes full reconstruction of the road, water main replacement, streetscape enhancement, bike lanes and an off-street bike path from First Street to Prairie Street. The second phase, which is slated 2026, would complete the work from Prairie Street to Y Boulevard.
The first phase is estimated to cost about $3 million. Both phases are estimated to cost a combined $7.5 million for both roadway and water infrastructure improvements.
The city will also work with Union Pacific, which has a rail track that runs through the middle of the roadway.
11th Street corridor improvements
The city has a more than $20 million, three-phase plan to rebuild 11th Street, including pedestrian and bicycle improvements and the removal of overhead utilities.
The first phase of that work, which covers the roadway from Harrison Avenue to 18th Avenue, is slated to begin in 2025 and cost about $14 million. Future phases reconstruct the road north to Charles Street in 2026 and from U.S. 20 to Harrison in 2027.
“We’re basically done with the plan, but we need the next 12 or so months to coordinate the utility relocation, getting all those overhead electric poles relocated, and any type of easements we need to start construction,” Saunders said.
Sixth and Ninth streets two-way conversion
The city is in the engineering phase of plans to remove the ramps and structures of the Illinois 251 and Whitman Street interchange and convert Sixth Street and Ninth Street from one way to two-way traffic.
That $3 million project is expected to move forward in 2027.
City officials say the change allow for better flow between the east and west sides of the city and create better pedestrian and bicycle access into the neighborhoods.
Harrison Avenue rebuild
Harrison Avenue will be rebuilt from Ninth Street to Kishwaukee Street in partnership with the state. The work includes new sidewalks, lighting and a multiuse path.
The estimated $9.2 million project is scheduled to begin in 2026 and is funded primarily by $8 million in state funding.
In later phases, the city would reconstruct the road from Kishwaukee west to the Rock River. That $10.7 million project would likely proceed in 2027. It is also funded by about $8.4 million in state dollars.