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Orange Prairie Road extension: State-funded sprawl

On Thursday night (7/15), the City of Peoria hosted an open house for the Orange Prairie Road Extension project. They distributed a handout which you can see by clicking here (PDF).

The first question to ask is: Why are we building a new road in the middle of a cornfield on the northwest end of town? The handout states that the “primary purpose of this project is to facilitate … development along the Orange Prairie Road corridor….” In other words, they want to incentivize the conversion of more farmland to primarily residential subdivisions, plus a little commercial development.

The next question is: How can Peoria afford this given our current budget woes? The answer is that it’s being funded by the State of Illinois to the tune of $17.5 million. Once the road is complete, the plan is to move the Route 91 designation from its current alignment to the new road. The old Route 91 would become the responsibility of the City. Thus, even though the state is picking up the capital outlay of building a new road, the City picks up the ongoing maintenance expense of the old road. We’re not getting a new road for free.

The conventional wisdom is that Peoria will come out ahead because the land will be developed, which will lead to property and sales tax increases. But the City hasn’t done a cost-benefit analysis to substantiate that belief. The City’s future use plan calls for this area to be primarily residential. Modern residential development means low-density development. That is, houses are pretty far away from each other, connected by meandering streets that all terminate in cul-de-sacs. This increases the costs of maintaining the streets while not raising enough in property taxes to cover the costs of increased services. And land that is developed by non-profit organizations will mean no additional property taxes to the City.

This extension has been touted as sustainable in at least one local magazine. An article in InterBusiness Issues said:

When complete and operational, [the Orange Prairie Roadway extension project] will encourage and support further development in the Greater Grand Prairie area, but in a carefully and thoughtfully planned manner. And, it may serve as a model for how such suburban and exurban developments can be greener and more sustainable. Using the State of Illinois’s new I-LAST (Livable and Sustainable Transportation) rating system, Orange Prairie designers are currently considering such items as protected bicycle and pedestrian pathways along the route, sustainable stormwater detention and wetland creation, introduction of street trees and landscape buffer zones, and energy-efficient street lighting. In addition, efforts will be made to maximize the use of local and recycled materials while minimizing the earthmoving operations in the entire project area.

It will provide a bike lane and sidewalk, which is good. Unfortunately, once you walk or ride your bike to War Memorial, you have no place else to go, since that route is decidedly inhospitable to anything but motor vehicles. Given the low density of development, the area will be unable to sustain public transportation. But these and any other critical issues get little or no discussion in City Council meetings, especially when the State is waving $17.5 million under their noses. We’ll just build it and pay the consequences later.

11 comments to Orange Prairie Road extension: State-funded sprawl

  • clayton

    “Unfortunately, once you walk or ride your bike to War Memorial, you have no place else to go, since that route is decidedly inhospitable to anything but motor vehicles.”

    Wouldn’t any bike rider or runner on this new Orange Prairie road just cross War Memorial Drive into Charter Oak and keep pedaling or running? That subdivision looks like a good area for that type of activity.

  • Garth Madison

    Unfortunately, anything residential across War Memorial in that area just dead ends back into highway. You cannot connect back up to Peoria proper on less congested routes; you need to travel on War Memorial for at least two stretches. Unless you prefer to hazard 6!

    The talk of greening the new road is fine, but the first priority should be providing basic infrastructure connections to the rest of the city first. If as part of the package you want to add a segregated bike and pedestrian route from the northwest back into the heart of the city, then we’re talking. It would be comparatively cheap to do, since bikes and pedestrians require so much less room and fewer resources than cars. There are plenty of potential routes on less car friendly roads up towards Northwoods at least, which would require minimal conversion to designate as such.

    I suppose it is encouraging that they’re at least talking about bike and pedestrian access, even if the big picture is still lacking.


  • dunlap observer

    I would much rather see Pioneer Parkway extended across to Route 91.

  • Mahkno

    “I would much rather see Pioneer Parkway extended across to Route 91.”

    I believe this was looked at but there is a cemetery in the way. A cemetery which is financially broke. Relocating dead folks from their resting places for a roadway is politically hazardous.

  • vonster

    And they will soon upgrade the cow path called Campbell Rd to a 3 lane between 91 and Radnor as well as extend Challacomb east from Trigger to 91. The semi-rural nature that area is not long for this earth. The area east of Radnor just south of Alta Rd is up for residential development as well as the area just west of the UP tracks on the north side of Alta Rd.

  • vonster

    Oh, and if you look at the plat, there’s a little 75′ squeaker path on the north side of that cemetery they might be able to use to extend Pioneer but it’ll require the re-alignment of PP @ Allen. What’s really in the way is the golf course but they COULD curve it up match up with Campbell Rd.

  • Clayton — You’re talking about recreation. I’m talking about transportation. Yes, someone who’s just out for a ride or a jog could just continue across the street. But what if they actually wanted to go somewhere?

  • Mazr

    I think all farmland in the Peoria area needs to be dug up and developed. Then, while the city continues to rot, the city leaders can scratch their heads and say “Why is everyone moving out of Peoria to the newly-developed dug up farmland?”

  • Pryorian

    CJ nailed the subject here — state funded SPRAWL.

    As long as development in the Orange Prairie part of town all feeds into Dunlap School district, there will be more middle class flight, the core of the city will empty, the zero sum game will continue and you and I will pay for all this new infrastructure while the city of Peoria only grows 1-2% per decade. We will continue to wonder why we can’t afford enough police, why we’re closing D150 schools while D323 is still building new ones and why the streets and fire budgets are never enough. This is absolute insanity.

  • dunlap observer

    People wouldn’t be quite so happy to move into the Dunlap School District areas if Peoria could get their property taxes in line with the competition.
    Why build a new, $300k+ house within D150 boundaries even if you don’t have children in school when you can pay a lot less annually in property taxes to the Dunlap School District?
    For commercial property owners, the overall cost certainly counts and if it is cheaper, that’s where they build too.

  • GenerationWhy

    Dunlap Observer is correct; property taxes drive many people to live away from Peoria. A few weeks back C.J. had a post on the population migration in this area. It is clear that the real population movement is in the opposite direction of all of this sprawl. I believe that the City, with the State’s help, is going to sign its own death warrant. These new investments are going to force taxes ever higher, to spite its obvious effects on population growth. In direct contradiction to what Peoria City officials believe, people, in the heart of the City, will not allow themselves to be taxed into poverty. They will continue to move to Morton, Washington, and the Metamora/Germantown areas.

    This means that the City is developing retail zones and housing in the wrong place. With East Peoria’s retail juggernaut taking more and more business from Woodford and Tazewell county residents, Peoria will allocate this land and then go bankrupt trying to provide services to it. Peoria has many locations with natural beauty, that could use a face lift. For example, there are many people that would prefer to have a river view in “the Big City”. Most of the housing, in proximity to the Peoria side of the river, is rundown and crime ridden. This area has huge potential for growth. It amazes me how the City Counsel is letting these parts of the City rot. It’s time to get back to basics: stop crime, provide essential services, and deliver good schools. If you can do this, while charging less than the “other guys”, the City will grow. To tweak CJ, it is time to run the City like Wal*Mart! This means charge less than the competition, concentrate on the customer, and be efficient.