By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington City Council members are in favor of renaming a portion of U.S. Route 150 after the electric vehicle maker Rivian Automotive.
Similar to what happened in Normal, Monday night’s vote was not unanimous to change the name from Mitsubishi to Rivian Motorway.
Council members Donna Boelen and Jenn Carrillo voted no. Boelen said local governments are giving free advertising to Rivian even though the company fell short last year of meeting investment goals required to receive tax breaks.
Boelen said a neighboring business person told her it will cost him thousands of dollars to change his address.
“He’s going to have to spend $5,000 to redo his website and advertising,” said Boelen.
“So is the Town of Normal or Rivian going to reimburse those particular small businesses that would be affected by this change?”
Council member Jamie Mathy wondered how the cost to that business for the address change is so high, and recommended the owner talk to his web developer about that.
Mayor Tari Renner said it’s common in the U.S. for communities to name streets after major investors.
“In fact, I stayed in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s State Farm Plaza at a motel that was linked to a fairly small (State Farm) distribution center. That is part of what some people think is pro-business,” the mayor said.
The McLean County Board and the Emergency Telephone System Board, which oversees the county’s 911 service, must also approve the new street name.
Carrillo was the only no vote as the council also approved an agreement to design the final extension of Hamilton Road, from Bunn Street to Commerce Parkway. The federal government will reimburse the city for 80 percent of the $600,000 cost for the design work.
Road construction will cost $12.5 million, as the city negotiates with Norfolk Southern Railway for installation of at-grade crossings. There would be traffic lights at both intersections and a connection to Constitution Trail.
Carrillo said the roadwork promotes outward sprawl, rather than investment in the city’s inner core.
“Many folks on the west side feel that this is a really expensive project in the short-term, and also in the long-term,” said Carrillo.
“My sense is that folks feel they’re not getting their fair share,” Carrillo added.
In other action, the council voted unanimously to grant a special use permit to Rivian’s competitor Tesla to open the first sales and service center in Illinois outside the Chicago area. It will be located in the Towanda Barnes Business Park at 420 Olympia Dr.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org