Dixon wins $12 million grant to build pedestrian bridge across river, extend path system

City can implement last phase of its riverfront master plan started 30 years ago

DIXON - The city won a $12 million federal grant Tuesday to build a pedestrian bridge across the Rock River and extend the bike path, a huge step to fulfilling longtime riverfront development goals.

For the last 4 years, the city has applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD grant, for Project Rock, the last phase in the city’s riverfront master plan created 3 decades ago.

The 2021 grant, renamed as the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity or RAISE program, consisted of $1 billion in competitive funding for projects that enhance transportation opportunities in communities throughout the nation.

The project includes constructing a pedestrian bridge on the old Illinois Central Railroad piers, adding 2.8 miles of multiuse path, doing new sidewalks and crossings, and resurfacing Page Drive, which is maintained by the Park District.

“As we look to become a destination, this is transformational for Dixon,” City Manager Danny Langloss said. “This will provide significant enhancements for our trail system, pathways and roadways.”

The city previously improved its application by including a benefit-cost analysis, which the city budgeted $10,000 for, and the city launched a community survey to show the level of interest and use the community would get out of the project. They received 1,525 surveys, and about 95% of respondents were in favor of the project and said they would get use out of it.

There will be new trails and pathways in the wooded area of Page Park commonly used for the Reagan Run, as well as a new pedestrian pathway to the baseball fields and tennis courts, as well as improvements to Page Drive, the baseball field, parking, and the boat docks.

“This takes it to the next level,” Langloss said. “It’s going to be incredible for not only our community but also with people coming here. It’s really going to enhance what we have to offer.”

It’s early on in the planning stages, but Langloss said the goal would be to have the project completed within 3 years.

The grant will cover the fourth and final phase of riverfront development. The third phase is to extend the bike path 1.6 miles – stretching east on River Road toward Raynor Garage Doors and west along the river with a ramp to the viaducts running to Seventh Street.

In 2016, the city received a $2 million Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant for that work. In June, the city received $1.4 million more from the state for the project.

Work, which could start in 2023, is awaiting a clean bill of environmental health at the former Dixon Iron and Metal Co. scrapyard along the river. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently finished $4 million in cleanup work at the site, and the city is applying for more grant funds for final remediation steps.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers joined Sauk Valley Media in 2016 covering local government in Dixon and Lee County.