Safety, access and sustainability are key factors in Rockford’s new $16 million grant funding

Published: Nov. 18, 2021 at 6:43 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Change is coming for Downtown Rockford thanks to a $16 million grant. The funding, focused on sustainability and equity, will rebuild Chestnut and Walnut Streets and buy three electric busses for the Rockford Mass Transit District.

“We’re seeing a lot of modernization. However, these two roads, by everybody’s admission, are not adaptable to this modernization,” explains R1 Planning Commission Executive Director Michael Dunn, who assisted in writing the grant. “The roads no longer fit the mobility needs and the way people want to have transportation occur because we no longer have these large factories, we no longer have these office towers, we have residential towers.”

“This allows folks who are downtown living, working, playing to have variety of modes in which they can connect through downtown,” says Michael Stubbe, Executive Director at Rockford Mass Transit District.

The grant focuses on a few key principles. Accessibility is the first.

“It’s all about access,” says Stubbe. “Access to opportunities, access to the things people need, to come downtown, to work downtown, to have access to services.”

Sustainability also plays a vital role in the funding.

“Anytime you can encourage one bicycle trip over a passenger vehicle trip, you’re reducing CO2 emissions. Little by little, converting different routes to electric busses and offering alternative hybrid technology,” Dunn says.

“We have a goal here by 2036 to be zero emission,” adds Stubbe. “This grant allows us to proceed forward with transitioning our fleet from diesel powered vehicles to electric vehicles.”

Safety is also a major motivator in the project. As Rockford deals with a massive increase in traffic crashes, city leaders and planners say new plans should reduce accidents, especially involving pedestrians and bicycles.

Planners say the revitalization will be in full swing during the next few years, but they don’t have a definite timeline quite yet.

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