The map of a roundabout proposed at the Y-intersection of northern Peoria Street and Plank Road shows an unusual location for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Last week, I openly questioned the way the Peru path will be situated. Why do cyclists and pedestrians have to cross from the east side of Peoria Street to get to the trail that’s planned inside the “Y” north of the roundabout?

I could not see why the bicycle pathway would parallel the east side of Plank Road, requiring cyclists or pedestrians to cross Plank Road to get to Veterans Park. Likewise, I wondered why the proposed path would follow the west side of Peoria Street, requiring users to cross Peoria to get to Hy-Vee or stores near the mall.

But engineer James Clinard said he and planners also wrestled with these questions.

Clinard said too many streets intersect the east edge of Peoria Street to safely put a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the east side. North of the proposed roundabout, currently planned near Sunset Drive, there’s 26th Street, 27th Street and Midtown Road, plus numerous business driveways, as well as Wenzel Road and business drives and the mall site to the north.

As for the plan calling for the trail to parallel the east side of Plank Road, Clinard said there’s already a sidewalk along the west side of Plank Road that leads almost to Veterans Park. And, building that trail on the east side of Plank would provide more separation of cyclist and pedestrian traffic.

Clinard said a lot went into the decision, and people asked questions about the trail at a recent open house. The mayor, Scott Harl, asked him to explain it to him more than once, too, said Clinard.

So, I’m glad I asked the expert in this case.

It’s not a perfect situation, but anything’s better than the current situation. Whether they’re supposed to or not, cyclists and pedestrians frequently use Peoria Street to go to work or to fetch food. It’s a narrow, busy street with hardly any room along the shoulders. And, the shoulders run between the edge of the roadway and deep ditches.

There are times when questions need an answer quickly.

There are others when a question serves as a statement.

Land sale was a steal for Buzzi

For example, why didn’t the state of Illinois negotiate to acquire the mined and abused Buzzi Unicem cement property for a dollar?

Or at least, why did the state pay so much — $11 million for 2,629 acres, much of which is wasteland?

Time will tell whether the state made a foolish move. Maybe, someday, the purchase will turn out to parallel “Seward’s Folly” — the $7.2 million Alaska Purchase from the Russian empire in 1867. And it can’t be worse than spending public funds on Chicago sports venues. My guess is, if anyone calls it Rauner’s Folly, one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s final moves, it will be due to the enormous costs of making the site safe and accessible. Also, the state has huge financial issues and several properties in desperate need of attention right now — the understaffing of Starved Rock State Park and the washout of the canal trail east of Utica come to mind.

The timing feels odd, but so did a U.S. land purchase on the heels of the Civil War.

I’m no real estate expert, but I believe Buzzi got off too easily selling that land for $11 million. The company satisfied Illinois’ land-reclamation requirements, but keep in mind, reclamation and restoration are not synonymous.

Many abandoned mines simply are planted with fragmites — tall, feathery, invasive bulrush-like grasses — rather than native plants.

In the long-term, however, portions of the land should make Matthiessen and Starved Rock even more worthwhile parks to visit.

And as a fisherman, I’m intrigued by part of the property north of Jonesville, a triangular backwater lake near the old Illinois Central tracks. The lake has long been off-limits to the public and the state has not indicated when it will. I’m not confident that some of the other ponds in old quarries will become accessible anytime soon.

Still, from a nature lover’s perspective, there’s nothing better than open spaces that the people are allowed to use and visit.

Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or ntlocal@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_NewsEditor.

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