With $12 million grant, Dixon ‘firing on all cylinders’

Community and business officials celebrate next stage in riverfront development

DIXON - Dixon’s riverfront will benefit from a $12 million federal grant, and dozens of city and community officials shared their excitement Thursday for what comes next after more than 2 decades of development.

City Manager Danny Langloss was informed Tuesday that the city had won a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity, or RAISE, program grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for Project Rock.

The grant will allow the city to construct a pedestrian bridge across the Rock River on the old Illinois Central Railroad piers, add 2.8 miles of multiuse path, improve sidewalks and crossings, and resurface Page Drive.

A room filled with city, community and business officials celebrated the grant with a news conference Thursday by detailing past milestones, projects in the hopper, and what the final phase of longterm riverfront development will look like in the coming years.

There’s the saying that the third time’s the charm, but for Dixon, it took eight tries across several years to land the grant, Langloss said.

“It’s truly an exciting time,” he said.

Many rural communities are struggling, but Dixon is “firing on all cylinders” constantly looking to evolve and improve the quality of life for community members through economic development, transportation and pathway upgrades, as well as infrastructure expansions and project partnerships, Langloss said.

Pathway access for both work and recreation is a huge driver for attracting and retaining young families, and growth is especially important when so many communities are facing population loss across the state, Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said.

KSB Hospital President and CEO Dave Schreiner, who served on the city’s Riverfront Commission, spoke of the vision created in 1998 under the late Mayor Jim Burke. That established a foundation for future development and led to the massive undertaking in 2008 to create Heritage Crossing and widespread improvements.

Now, the riverfront is a place to take families, shop downtown and eat at a restaurant, and go out on the water from the boat docks. It’s like something you would see out of an advertisement, Schreiner said.

The city has continued to build on that momentum, and riverfront development also ties into growing commercial and recreational offerings as well as opening up more access to the southwest, also known as Dementown.

The total project is estimated to cost around $12.8 million, and the city would contribute about $881,000.

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.

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.

The Project Rock grant process will take some time, but Langloss said they are hopeful work could begin in 2023 or 2024.

Rachel Rodgers

Rachel Rodgers

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