JOLIET — Steve Lazzara didn't get the answer he wanted when he sought approval from state transportation officials Friday for a mural that would welcome motorists to a Will County stretch of the Route 66 corridor.
But he did get one thing: a sense of direction.
“We showed them our initial designs and plans and they thought they were too bold, too visually distracting,” said Lazzara, senior planner for the county's Land Use Department. “But (the Illinois Department of Transportation) is going to partner with us and talk to us about the type of paint scheme that could work and the potential for murals and more lighting.”
Lazzara was among a handful of county and city staff that met with IDOT officials Friday to discuss painting a mural on a BNSF viaduct on Route 53. Officials hope the mural will create something of a gateway to the local Route 66 corridor, boosting visibility of the county's section of the historic road.
Because Route 53 is a state-owned road, the final image would need IDOT approval, he said in a voice mail response to questions about the meeting. Lazzara could not be reached for further comment.
The push for signage is one of many components to the county's Illinois 53 Corridor project — a long-term plan mapped out earlier this year to transform an area just south of I-80, stretching to Braidwood, into a tourism magnet for Route 66 visitors.
With the viaduct signs, Lazzara told stakeholders earlier this summer they wanted something that could “really pop” and improve the look of the grimy, concrete viaduct on Route 53.
Now, they'll have to approach the design with more subdued color schemes, with IDOT concerned that a vibrant mural would prove too distracting, Lazzara said.
It's unclear where the money will come from for the signage, but the county could save if it opts for a mural wrap — or a high-performance vinyl wrap with a paint-like appearance.
A permit would cost $1,000. BNSF officials and IDOT would have to sign off on the final image.
Included in the Illinois 53 Corridor plan is additional signage along Route 66, I-80 and I-57 to steer drivers toward key destinations, such as the Gemini Giant in Wilmington, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, among others.
Eventually, new attractions will be added, such as an observation tower for the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and a major bike trail connecting the already-existing trails. New trails along Route 66 could lead tourists to attractions such as Boyd's Quarry and the Brandon Dam and Locks.