By Susan Vela
Posted May 6, 2016 at 4:25 PM
Updated May 6, 2016 at 5:52 PM
BELVIDERE — Traffic has moved slower than usual in the eastbound lanes of State Street as construction workers tear up crumbling brick pavers.
This week crews stamped concrete as part of $2.7 million in streetscape improvements, the city's first major road renovations since the Great Recession.
Local shop owners don’t seem to mind the approaching summer of construction toil. They’re hoping the changes will make for better business.
“It’s great to see the pavers and the repaving of State Street,” said Jarid Funderburg, executive director of Growth Dimensions, the agency driving economic development efforts in Belvidere and Boone County. “It’s going to do a lot for the curb appeal for the State Street shops. It’s something that’s needed, and Mayor (Mike) Chamberlain is getting it done. It is our downtown.”
The Belvidere City Council approved the streetscape projects to be financed with utility tax revenues as part of an $18 million spending plan in April.
The work includes:
— At a $700,000 price tag, Alliance Contractors Inc. of Woodstock will continue to replace brick pavers with stamped concrete and install ramps that comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act at intersections between the railroad and Madison Street through the end of this month.
— Northern Illinois Service Co. of Rockford will rebuild Columbia Avenue and Aspen Court with new pavement, curb and gutter, water mains and sidewalks through July for $1.5 million.
— No bids have been awarded yet, but construction workers also will repave State Street from Madison Street to Logan Avenue for an estimated $500,000, beginning in July and lasting for about a month.
Becky Tobin, the city’s budget and finance officer, said the projects were placed on hold for years because of uncertainties over budgeting. But this was the year city officials demanded improvements.
State Street was last paved in 2000, according to Public Works Director Brent Anderson.
“The economic activity for our city has improved so that we can do more capital improvements,” he said. “It will certainly improve the aesthetics in the downtown area.”
Today, there were signs, detours and one lane of traffic on eastbound State Street, between East Perry and Pleasant streets. The road hassles typically vanish during the night hours.
“We do have another exit and entrance out the back way,” said Robyn Lanning, pharmacy technician at O’Brien & Dobbins Pharmacy. “All improvements would be great for the downtown area.”
Gary Simon, The Brick Cafe and Gallery owner at 615 S. State St., said construction workers ripped out the pavers in recent years and replaced them with stamped concrete.
A lot of people wanted to know what was happening, and, as a result, business may have even improved.
“It looks much nicer, and it doesn’t crack,” Simon said. “It’s looking good.”