Monroe County nixes Bluff Road bike lane

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Monroe County Engineer Aaron Metzger reported at Monday’s meeting of the Monroe County Board that the county will not apply for a grant to add asphalt shoulders for bicyclists along Bluff Road.  

The announcement comes after public hearings took place Oct. 19 in Columbia and Oct. 21 in Fountain.

Nearly identical numbers attended the two sessions to express their ideas.  While some who spoke supported the idea, others expressed concerns for the safety of bicyclists.

Metzger cited safety on the narrow, winding road as a major part of the decision.  He said the county would also be responsible in coming years for costs of maintaining a smooth surface that could be safely ridden by bicyclists. 

A safer alternative would be to create a bike lane separated from Bluff Road, he said. But that would require acquiring additional right-of-way at added costs not included in the current grant opportunity.

Commissioner Vicki Koerber said she supported healthy exercise opportunities and will continue to explore ideas for future development. 

Metzger said the county will continue to pursue more viable bicycling opportunities and Koerber concluded by saying “We’re not done with this.” 

The bike lane idea had been in the works for several weeks, Metzger said,  because that is when the county learned it could receive an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant to cover 80 percent of the costs. 

The bike lane would have run approximately 14 miles from DD Road in Columbia to E. Main Street in Old Valmeyer, with the work done in phases.

The first section of work alone, from DD Road to Hanover Road would have cost an estimated $2.5 million, with $2 million coming from the grant and the rest from the county. 

In other news from Monday’s meeting, lease fees for county space for various users were discussed and will remain the same for the coming fiscal year that begins Dec. 1. They will be: Monroe Randolph Regional Office of Education – $21,600 or $1,800 per month; Violence Prevention office – $1,560 or $130 per month; Monroe County Emergency Management Agency and 9-1-1 – $11,200 or $9.33 per month; Monroe County Ambulance Service $29,939 or $2,495 per month; MERS Goodwill – $2,030.04 or $169.17 per month; University of Illinois Extension – $35,000.04 or $2,916.67 per month and Tower Rent CCAT – $8,784.60 or $732.05 per month.

Additional discussions of county budget matters for fiscal year 2021 will be conducted 9 a.m. Nov. 9 at the courthouse, with final approval of the budget, appropriations for various departments and the tax levee to be approved in a meeting in the same place on Nov. 24.

Monroe County Health Administrator John Wagner said with schools reopening and more activity by others moving inside as cold weather comes, he expects COVID-19 cases and maybe even deaths to increase somewhat.  

He continued to point out disparities in statistics being used by the state to drive mitigations and other COVID-related restrictions.  

Wagner said COVID vaccines could arrive for health workers and other first responders as soon as two weeks from now and that health departments are being advised to be prepared. 

He said as vaccinations widen to cover more groups after health personnel and first responders, Monroe County is preparing facilities at the Monroe County Fairgrounds to accommodate drive-thru vaccinations. 

Two reappointments were approved by the board: Floyd Floarke of Valmeyer and Lynden Prange of Fults were reappointed to the 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Board for four more years.  New terms will begin Dec. 2.  

The county board will meet next Monday, Nov. 16 at 8:15 a.m. 

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