Riding toward the riverfront: Sterling, Dixon receive state grants to extend bike paths

Sterling and Dixon will receive state grants to extend their multi-use paths and open up access to their riverfronts.

Sterling has been trying for years to land an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program grant, and the $1.26 million project will allow the city to extend the bike path from the Dillon Home to the riverfront along East Second Street.

There will also be a bridge across state Route 40 to allow access to both sides of the riverfront.

Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard said a longtime goal for the city has been to open up access in that area, and it’s taken years of engineering, reviews from the Illinois Department of Transportation, and work from city officials to make it happen.

“It took a lot of people to get this done, it’s a great relief, and we’re very grateful,” Shumard said.

The city’s local match for the grant is around $250,000, and the project will also fit with city plans to resurface Second Street.

“With us looking at furthering riverfront development, it’s critical that people can get there in a variety of ways,” Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said.

The city has made strides in developing and cleaning up the riverfront in the last decade, and this will be a visible improvement that will also help attract additional development, Lee said.

“What we’ve accomplished is striking, and there’s more to come,” he said. “This is a big, big deal, and it’s a great thing for Sterling.”

The current path runs from the Dillon Home to Sinnissippi Park, and the Sterling Park District recently started its expansion traveling to Sauk Valley Community College. So in the next couple years, the Sterling path will stretch from the riverfront all the way to Sauk.

It’s early in the planning process, but work could begin in 2023.

“How far we’re looking to go in the next few years is amazing,” Shumard said. “We’ve had bits and pieces of the trail, and now we’re making some great connections, which is huge for the community.”

Dixon’s award totals about $1.4 million, with a local match of about $600,000, and it will go toward existing efforts 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 ITEP grant for the project, and the city has received grant extensions while environmental cleanup continues at the former Dixon Iron and Metal scrapyard at 78 Monroe Ave.

In 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency began $3 million in emergency cleanup work at the site after contaminants were found going into the river. The bulk of work has finished, and another $1 million of work will likely continue this summer.

The goal is to get the property cleaned up and have the path run along the river before connecting to the viaducts.

The city has earmarked $1 million in Rita Crundwell recovery fund dollars for expenses not covered by the ITEP grant, and the additional grant will allow them to save some of those reserves.

Dixon City Manager Danny Langloss said there were rising costs for the project, including features like lighting, seating and landscaping, and the second grant will help lower the cost for the city. The timeline will depend on getting a clean bill of environmental health for the scrapyard, and work could go out to bid in early 2023.

“This helps us get closer to getting the project done and paying for it responsibly,” he said. “Today is an exciting day for Dixon.”

Rachel Rodgers

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