Gateway to the Region

by Eric Miller
Tri-County Regional Planning Commission

TCRPC unifies the region through local leadership, funding and collaboration.

The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission (TCRPC) exists to foster communication throughout the region regarding transportation, land use and environmental issues. By putting them in perspective of the three-county area of Peoria, Woodford and Tazewell, TCRPC provides a space for local officials, stakeholders and the public to work together to move the whole region forward toward a unified vision.

A Planning Mission
TCRPC came into existence in 1958 when the Illinois General Assembly passed the Regional Planning Act, allowing each county to create a regional commission and establish its ability to address planning issues. The organization began staffing the Peoria-Pekin Urbanized Area Transportation Study (PPUATS) in 1976, serving as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the region. The MPO is a federally-sponsored program that requires regions with a population over 50,000 to jointly plan transportation improvements in conjunction with local partners such as the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and public transit agencies. Illinois has 16 MPOs like TCRPC. 

With the introduction of PPUATS, TCRPC began receiving federal transportation dollars. It receives a majority of its funding via a grant from the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration. It also does work for local communities in a direct contractual relationship, with mapping or planning on an as-needed basis. These projects may relate to developing streetscapes for a community or establishing an overarching transportation plan. Ultimately, TCRPC helps communities realize their goals and build a stable foundation.

Further, PPUATS involves the leadership of different communities. Mayors, county board members, transit board members, IDOT leadership and their technical representatives are asked to come together to make decisions on behalf of the entire region, rather than their own individual communities. The region should be prioritized because if it is strong, the communities within it will reflect that strength. 

Successful implementation of any development begins with a good plan. A community should have a strategic plan that is well-vetted through the public and has gained the consensus of elected officials. Further, such plans should have the support of any business owners or citizens that may be affected by its implementation. Public involvement and transparency is extremely important in the planning process. 

Tri-County Regional Planning CommissionVisions Aligned
Pekin’s Derby Street Corridor Plan and Revitalization Study was one example of how TCRPC/PPUATS assisted a member community. Funded through PPUATS, this 2018 document outlined a public engagement process which helped create an updated design of the 1.5-mile-long street. Hanson Professional Services’ Peoria office, along with Nashville-based Common Ground Design Studio, conducted the study. 

Mike Guerra, Pekin’s city engineer, was one of the staff members who worked on this plan. He believes that since Derby Street is a vital roadway for Pekin’s south side, the study was crucial to help them give attention to the area. By using a charette (a public planning meeting involving hands-on projects and discussions), the group was able to reach out directly to Pekin citizens to gather their input. Therefore, the public could directly and deliberately contribute to how their city was planned. The City is now in the process of analyzing the budget to implement parts of the plan in the future.

TCRPC/PPUATS was also the funding mechanism for the East Peoria Four Corners Study, which sought to improve the 100 block of Washington Street for business and property owners. One of the recurring issues with this block related to parking availability and traffic flow. As funding was made available for planning, a study was the ideal way to gain public input and put a brighter spotlight on the area. 

Ty Livingston, East Peoria’s director of planning and community development, acknowledges the study has stimulated a positive dialogue with the public and provided useful traffic numbers. The allocated planning dollars have been used for several different projects within East Peoria, and he expressed appreciation that TCRPC allows communities to utilize such funds to fit their own vision for improvement and redevelopment. 

All in all, the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission leverages its history within the community, connections to local officials and stakeholders, and transparency with the public to bring a variety of groups together for a unified goal. Having led to numerous planning achievements and accomplishments in the region, its existence is fundamental to creating a stronger, more robust central Illinois. iBi

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