San Diego Union Tribune

April 29, 2005

Governor advocates Capitol Avenue project

By DORI MEINERT and BRIAN MACKEY
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Gov. Rod Blagojevich promoted Springfield’s Capitol Avenue improvement project to the Illinois congressional delegation during a dinner this week in the nation’s capital.

“We talked about pockets of money we might be able to access here in Washington for Springfield, specifically in the wake of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum having opened up a little over a week ago,” Blagojevich said after lunch with the delegation Thursday. He spoke to the delegation about Capitol Avenue during dinner Wednesday at the Library of Congress.

“There’s an opportunity to really revitalize downtown Springfield and turn it into something very special, because we have this wonderful museum and such a unique history in our state that is all about the greatest American who ever lived, Abraham Lincoln,” Blagojevich said.

“So we need to build on its success. The state is going to do its part.”

On April 13, Blagojevich announced a $1.5 million state grant to the city of Springfield to design, plan and secure rights of way for the Capitol Avenue redevelopment. Spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch said Thursday that the planning phase should be complete by mid-2006.

“We have some ideas that we’ll announce shortly to build on the success of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum,” Blagojevich said.

“We may contemplate more resources from the state, but we’d also like to get some more money here from Washington as well.”

The governor gave no specific dollar amount, saying only “there have been some discussions.”

“I think everybody’s heart is in the right place, and everybody sincerely would like to try to help to get more resources for the city of Springfield and other parts of central Illinois to take advantage of the unique heritage we have with here with Abraham Lincoln,” Blagojevich said.

Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin has said he would like the project finished in time for Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial birthday in 2009. When complete, the improvements would stretch from Second to 19th streets, creating a “promenade” linking the east side of town with the Statehouse.

The Capitol Avenue project is just part of a multi-year, multimillion-dollar sprucing up of downtown Springfield that was sparked by the Lincoln museum and includes planting trees, installing decorative streetlamps and burying power lines.