Three members of the Four County Highway Coalition recently met with U.S. Congressman Mike Bost at his Carbondale office regarding the proposed four-lane highway from Murphysboro to Waterloo.
During the meeting, FCHC Chairman Marc Kiehna, Coalition member John Rendleman and Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens presented Bost with the resolutions and letters of support the coalition had received from various municipalities and businesses in Randolph, Jackson, Monroe and Perry counties.
Bost agreed to meet with the Coalition in October and the FCHC is also hoping to get Illinois Department of Transportation officials, along with State Rep. Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton), State Rep. Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) and State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo), to attend as well.
"He was very receptive and pleased that we had done our homework," Kiehna said of Bost, who serves on the 115th Congress's Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. "He was very pleased that our cities and towns and villages, as well as our counties, had all passed resolutions in support of this."
The proposed highway would expand portions of existing Routes 154, 127 and 3 to four lanes, with bypasses around Red Bud, Sparta, Pinckneyville and Vergennes. The Murphysboro-to-Pinckneyville segment of the highway, which involves Route 127, is said to be "shovel ready" and awaiting appropriated funds.
"(Bost's) comment was he now has the ammunition he needs to start working on this in the House," Kiehna said.
At the Coalition's July meeting in Murphysboro, the farm bureaus of both Jackson and Perry counties weighed in on the topic and roughly two months later, Kiehna said the farm bureaus remain "neutral" on the proposal.
"We need to find out how we need to work this thing from this point," Kiehna said. "We were told early on (by Bost) 'I needed a groundswell of support from the four counties who want this to happen.'
"We've done that."
As far as what's next, Kiehna stated there is a possibility of lobbying for the highway, along with the hopes of it being included in a House of Representatives transportation bill.
"There's been talk about earmarks, which basically went away several years ago and we don't know if those will come back or not," he said. "Sometimes earmarks are good for rural areas if we don't have the cloud that we do in Chicago or the Chicago suburbs.
"Sometimes it's nice if we can acquire an earmark to build a specific project, but we'll see how this all unfolds."