DeKALB – A recommendation to eliminate a northbound lane of First Street at the Lincoln Highway intersection in order to provide more sidewalk space and lighting was rejected Monday by the DeKalb City Council.
The motion, which would have authorized St. Charles-based WBK Engineering LLC to prepare construction plans for the project, was defeated by a 4-3 vote with 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson, 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Marquardt, 4th Ward Alderman Patrick Fagan and 6th Ward Alderman Mike Verbic voting no.
“The hope is we do extend [downtown DeKalb] to the NIU campus,” Jacobson said. “Limiting our only north-south collector street downtown is the opposite of that idea.”
St. Charles-based WBK Engineering LLC, which was hired to conduct the traffic study in May, evaluated the effects of removing the easternmost lane on First Street during the first phase of the study and determined that existing and future traffic would not be significantly affected at the Lincoln Highway intersection or at the railroad tracks about 420 feet to the south.
The next phase of the project would have been to complete construction drawings of the proposed improvements, including Illinois Department of Transportation permits and bidding documents. The cost of this phase was not to exceed $67,500 and would have been funded through tax increment financing dollars. The work itself was estimated to cost close to $400,000.
Council members raised concerns on how far traffic would build up once the Cornerstone project was finished and whether a northbound truck could make a right turn onto First Street without cutting into southbound traffic.
DeKalb Fire Chief Eric Hicks said a crew went to the intersection a few weeks ago with a ladder truck traveling north on First Street and was able to make a successful right turn onto Lincoln Highway.
Hicks also acknowledged that the truck was not a two-piece vehicle such as a semi, but said they were able to make the turn without problems.
During public participation, former 5th Ward Alderman Ron Naylor said he was amazed a project such as this had proceeded to the design stage, especially without supporting documentation saying that the sidewalk was a public safety concern or that it had insufficient lighting.
“There are so many things that have been missed in this development,” Naylor said.
DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said he doubted that a similar proposal would be introduced in the near future.