I-90 expansion presents big possibilities for Rockford

I-90 expansion presents big possibilities for Rockford

ROCKFORD - Rockford Is in the middle of a financial crisis. Property values are plummeting, hurting funding for all types of services, meanwhile raising property taxes are at record levels

ROCKFORD - These remain tough times in the city of trees.  Factories closed, property values declining.  In fact, Rockford school officials who rely on property taxes for funding say the assessed value of property in the city has dropped half-a-billion dollars in the past five years.  The decline is devastating our tax base, hurting not just schools but essential city services and money for development.


But all that could potentially change, because Rockford could soon have a unique chance to capitalize on a huge economic generator.


"That is a fantastic opportunity for the city," said Chief Financial Officer for the Rockford Public School district Cedric Lewis.


The Illinois Tollway system is going to expand I-90 to three lanes between Rockford and Elgin.  Bringing more traffic nearby, creating a road to riches passing right through our city limits.


"Potentially also provide a lot of jobs for our area, and put a lot of people back to work," said Lewis.


But only if Rockford embraces recent trends and is willing to invest.


Anyone who's driven on the East State Street has dealt with major traffic jams.


"The closer you get to the 90 corridor, or Perryville Road," said Rockford Township Assessor, the more traffic you see.  And that traffic means business is booming and Crowley says "you're going to have a higher market value and assessed value."


The golden spot for city property values is right the East State Street commercial corridor that's closest to the interstate.


"The closer you get to 90 and out to Perryville and [East] State Street, you'll have some of our highest land values in Rockford," said Crowley.


But as you move west a long East State Street, the amount of money collected by taxing bodies over the last five years drops significantly.


"As you move more towards the center of town or downtown," said Crowley.  "Those numbers start to slide."


Crowley adds that demand for property near the Perryville Road and East State Street intersection consistently sells for the highest amount in the area.


"Meaning that there's also the highest value on those properties," said Crowley.


And while there isn't much space west of I-90 for expansion, there is plenty of room to the east, and that property could bring in big bucks if marketed to the right industries.  Such as hotels and restaurants, as well as office and industrial parks, businesses looking for easy access to and from I-90.


"All the area that is undeveloped, at some point will be developed," said Crowley.


The city could reap the rewards by developing infrastructure in the area, providing the needed foundation to lure new businesses here, producing needed tax revenue which would benefit the entire city.


"Just because tax money could potentially be generated in East State, doesn't mean that it will stay there," said Lewis.  "We're going to distribute the money to all of our citizens and to all of our children throughout the school system."

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