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Lincoln Highway downtown DeKalb lane reduction slated for fall completion

DeKALB - DeKalb city residents should prepare for major construction downtown this summer, as Lincoln Highway is reconfigured from four to three lanes, set for completion by Corn Fest this fall.

It’s been more than two years since the plans for Lincoln Highway were first brought to the DeKalb City Council. Since that time, the city has obtained permission from the Illinois Department of Transportation to move forward with the work, meant to curb speeding truck traffic in the area and encourage more pedestrians, city officials said.

At its most recent meeting, the DeKalb City Council voted 6-0 to approve two contracts for the work, and a final permit through IDOT for the plan. Mayor Cohen Barnes abstained from the vote, since his business, Sundog IT, is located downtown, he said.

“This is excited,” Barnes said. “Years in the making.”

With a reduction of four lanes to three, the middle lane would serve as a turning lane, according to city documents. Sidewalks on both the north and south sides would gain about six feet of space.

A $1.76 million contract was approved with DeKalb-based Elliott & Woods, Inc. for the construction plans. A second contract, for $124,925 was also approved with engineering consultant Fehr-Graham & Associates, based in northern Illinois. The engineering consultant has been used regularly for city projects over the years, including most recently with street maintenance on First, Taylor and Seventh streets between 2019 and 2021, documents show.

Plans also include updates to historic lighting, better signage, wide pedestrian-friendly walking spaces near interactions, more color and adding electric components to permanent planters downtown to brighten special events.

DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas said the city hopes to have work completed by the time DeKalb Corn Fest returns in August. He said residents and motorists should expect a significant impact to daily downtown life while the project is underway.

“We’re about to embark on a major downtown reconstruction project, with vehicles in every block for the next couple of months,” Nicklas said.

City staff said while the work is underway, steps will be taken in an effort to minimize business disruption and customer inconvenience along the downtown strip, while making sure the construction moves forward steadily.

“[We’re] delighted with the possibility that we might be on the threshold of curing a problem that has been facing us since the late 70′s, when we went to four lanes downtown,” Nicklas said. “In the last 15 years we’ve done some streetscaping downtown that has created some on-street parking...but it’s still a four-lane raceway. The fact that we have some very narrow sidewalks on either side also tends to diminish the interest of pedestrians strolling our downtown area.”