UPDATE: U.S. 20 Widening Project West of Freeport

By: Lauren Kravets
By: Lauren Kravets

NORTHWESTERN ILLINOIS (WIFR) -- A construction project that's been talked about for decades in Northwestern Illinois, could be delayed even longer.

Hundreds of cars drive on Highway 20 daily. It's mostly a smooth ride until you get just west of Freeport, that's when the road drops to two lanes. The Illinois Department of Transportation wants to change that by making it a four-lane roadway. The project would widen more than 50 miles from Freeport to Dubuque. The route is expected to be more convenient but also safer.

Ross Vehmeier, the director of operations at The Rafters restaurant in Lena, says he's seen plenty of accidents on Rt. 20.

"It's a narrow road, there's a lot of big trucks and there's a ton of traffic."

Vehmeier says the expansion could also bring more business.

"With any type of main four-lane highway of any sort, there will be an attraction to build fuel stations, small gift shop retail shops," he explains.

The problem now is getting more funding. The Highway Trust Fund which helps with state projects, is expected to run out in August.

"There is absolutely no promises I can make as far as whether the funding will be there to widen this, this is a billion dollar project," explains Congresswoman Cheri Bustos of the 17th District.

Vehmeier says he's not sure the work on 20 would've happened any sooner, even without the trust fund roadblock.

"It's on the back burner, you're hopeful that it does happen but you don't exactly know if, or when."

I-DOT has $23.5 million to put towards the project right now. Bustos says the highway transportation bill is expected to be discussed within the next few weeks, which is when we could learn more.

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