Nearly six months after the state announced it would pump millions of dollars into the expansion of the John Deere Road, Gov. Pat Quinn stood near the busy thoroughfare Wednesday, saying the investment will create hundreds of jobs in the area and improve safety.
Quinn, who was joined by area mayors and legislators, said the first phase of construction will begin next year with the building of an overpass just west of 38th Street. Eventually, the road will be expanded from four to six lanes, the second part of a project that’s expected to be completed in mid- to late-2016.
“To have as tough a recession as we had a couple years ago, and coming out of that recession, one of the best ways to do it is public works,” Quinn said. “By investing in roads and bridges, we are helping ourselves today and tomorrow by strengthening our economy.”
Construction isn’t scheduled to start until next July or August, state Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said. That’s a few months later than initially had been anticipated. A wetlands issue necessitated changing the plans for the overpass near 38th Street.
When the first phase that includes the overpass is completed, however, left turns at 38th Street will be eliminated and so will the traffic signal. That, officials say, should improve the traffic flow at that intersection, which has seen a boost in commercial activity. The additional lanes — expanding John Deere Road from four to six lanes from 38th Street to 70th Street — also will improve traffic on the exceptionally busy road.
“This project has been on our radar for many, many years,” Moline Mayor Don Welvaert said.
Schneider said the first phase of the project is expected to go out to bid next June. Overall, it will cost an estimated $47 million. Officials say 600 jobs will be created as a result.
Wednesday’s news conference comes less than a month before Election Day, and state lawmakers who are facing challenges had their opportunity to speak up. Quinn singled out Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, as a leader in the effort to pass the governor’s construction program in the Senate. Jacobs faces a tough challenge this year from Republican Bill Albracht.
The East Moline Democrat said what the $47 million means to him is “a lot of cement, a lot of rebar, a lot of workers.” He added, “I look forward to going back to Springfield and bringing home more bacon.”
Rep. Pat Verschoore, D-Milan, praised the governor for his job creation efforts, too.
Meanwhile, Rep. Rich Morthland, R-Cordova, acknowledged much of the legislative work to make the road expansion happen was done before he was elected two years ago. But he added that private-sector development in the area is what has driven the need for the road expansion.
“There are jobs here, there are businesses here, there is commerce here, and we want to make that as accessible to our people as possible,” he said.