The Normal Underpass History

By:  Diane Benjamin

Since the underpass has already cost a fortune in staff time, studies, and drawings, I need to review how all this money was spent and why.  It also need to be explained why the construction cost is astronomical.

I’m going to be flipping back and forth between the minutes of the June 19, 2017 Council meeting and a document Normal posted on-line showing the history of the underpass planning.


Underpass history:

The Town of Normal is being very transparent about the process, they weren’t so transparent before the Council voted June 19, 2017.  More on that in a minute/

From the minutes where this version of the underpass was passed: 8020 split

Since the $13 million grant isn’t close to 80% – and the vote was likely based on what Peterson said – why is this vote still valid?  Below was the vote on the current plan.

vote 2017

Votes by previous Councils do not bind this Council!

What was the transparency problem?

Normal has posted the complete history of how they came to the decisions they did, see the link above.

It appears to be up to date – even reducing the cost from $24 million to $22 million.  See the drawings on PDF page 17 – the plan doesn’t just call for a tunnel.  The plan is the one approved by the Council in 2017, it appears to include a water feature with fountains on the north side and a public space that looks more like a park on the south side.

In keeping with the Uptown theme – the Normal Town Council went for luxury.

The 5 YES votes happily thought the Feds would pay 80% of the cost, so why not go all in.

Maybe the Feds saw the plans and knew it was much more than an underpass.  Maybe that is why Normal only received $13 million instead of the $16 million they wanted.

It gets worse:

On April 27, 2017 the Town held a public Open House.  The few who bother to vote elect representatives to make decisions for them, they actually have lives.  See PDF page 19.  These Open Houses are held to prove the Town has the support of the public to continue.  Most people probably didn’t even know this Open House took place.  Most people did not understand what the Town was trying to do.  They couldn’t take the time to head to City Hall and review all the possible iterations – even if they had time.  Read the document, the possibilities have changed many times.

Obviously supporters rallied their troops to attend, the Town used this to continue planning:

open house 2017

PDF page 18 shows the SEVEN choices the 2017 Council had.  Instead of using dollar estimates, they used their own scale:

PDF page 10:

scale $$ 

Go back to PDF page 18 – the Seven Choices.  The Council voted for the Mercedes plan even though the construction cost was rated POOR.  Maintenance costs were rated FAIR.

This Council does not have to fund luxury items passed by a previous Council.  Only getting $13 million for an estimated $22 million project should be a deal killer.

Of course the Town is now looking for more free money.  I wonder if they realize that money plus the $13 million is still taxpayer dollars.  Have they run out of other people’s money yet?

See PDF pages 2-3 of the minutes for a recap at Public Comment during the June 19, 2017 meeting.  Marc Tiritilli and Ron Ulmer opposed the plan.  Dave Shields (Koos buddy), Wesley Ward (ISU student), and Carl Teichman (IWU) supported it.

Back to the history document – PDF page 21.  It has a long list of who sent letters in support of the Mercedes plan.  A list of objectors either doesn’t exist or wasn’t included.

These are the 7 choices, reading them on-line will be easier:

page 18




5 thoughts on “The Normal Underpass History

  1. Everyone needs to read the long list of letters sent in support of this on page 21 of the PDF. There’s not a single individual on the list aside from the government officials, Durbin, Duckworth, Davis and LaHood. Go figure. The rest includes Amtrak and Union Pacific, ISU, IWU, Heartland Community College, Advocate BroMenn, Connect Transit, Central IL Regional Airport and State Farm and others. I think we can all see the pattern. If these organizations want this so bad then it’s time for them to cough up some money.

  2. Of course “uptown” is going to go “full speed ahead” with a silly plan. They have PROVEN that MANY times. Maybe they can borrow the flamingoes from Miller Park for the water feature during the summer, so the “uptown” folk can obtain some value for their hard earned dollars, since uptown seems so WILLING to spend it for them.
    This IS, and WILL BE a total FIASCO for uptown, as I am 99% positive there will be delays, cost overruns, un foreseen obstacles, and that’s NOT to mention re routing the high speed rail. This is just PLAIN STUPIDITY!
    ANYONE wanna bet me the FINAL bill is $25 million+++? especially IF Mike Matejka and his goons get in on the act.
    Pritzker will be PROUD of ALL of you for reaming the taxpayers who are “above” the poor class and NEED to be relieved of their hard money.

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