How student census numbers affect Quincy roads and infrastructure

Chuck Bevelheimer in an interview

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, road traffic has been noticeably cut down, reduced — we hope — to people running essential errands, grocery shopping, going to doctor’s appointments, and the like. These are challenging times, and until things return to normal, we will — hopefully — stay home and tend to those who need us most.

But as we gradually work our way back to a resemblance of normalcy, we will return to our hustling, bustling lives, going out to eat, visiting family in other states, sometimes just driving just to drive. With that increased travel comes, obviously, increased road traffic, which means increased need for road repairs and even new roads.

This is where the census comes into play. The census determines funding for public services. The more people counted in the census, the more money there is available for the city, county and state to use to fund education, health, transportation, and a variety of other services.

Included in those public services are roads and infrastructure. Chuck Bevelheimer, planning director for the city of Quincy and staff person for the Complete Count Committee, said the term “infrastructure” could be applied to any number of things.

“Infrastructure could be anything from roads to bridges, to sewer, to water,” he said. “The infrastructure priorities are endless.”

The city of Quincy, Adams County, and the state of Illinois will receive a portion of the $675 billion in federal funds following the 2020 census. About $1.4 million of those funds will go toward the Federal Aid to Urban Routes, or FAU, program.

“This is a transportation program that helps improve roads so that they’re more capable of carrying traffic,” Bevelheimer said. “And that’s something that the city and the county use often.”

Bevelheimer outlined the uses of the funds provided to the city of Quincy for transportation and infrastructure.

“Not only does this money fund road work for a community, it also funds more transit subsidies for the transit lines so it can serve the population,” he said. “It provides funding for senior housing to help seniors stay at home longer. It’s just a matter of funding areas of need within the community.”

Quincy competes with cities of a similar size for the funds generated from the census.

“We compete with other cities under 50,000 in population,” Bevelheimer said. “Through a block grant program that the federal government offers to the state, it gives us the opportunity to go after funding to support projects if we can prove that there is a direct need and that the projects will impact the population.

“Every year, we write grants for housing or infrastructure needs and try to improve the community by obtaining those funds to make public infrastructure improvements.”

So how do these funds help Quincy University students? Bevelheimer points to 18th street in particular as an example.

“That road surfacing project would be an example of federal aid for an urban route,” he said. “Those funds would be available through the federal government to the state to the city that we can then use to rehab, resurface, install and maintain curb gutters, build sidewalks, address the storm drainage and sewage issues. That helps us maintain that critical infrastructure.”

The benefits for QU students don’t stop there.

“It could also be for Quincy Transit Lines providing transit services to QU students,” Bevelheimer continued. “Our transit lines work hand-in-hand with QU in moving students around campus. That would be another example of how our transit lines are impacted by federal funds.”

So when the next street gets paved or someone fixes the storm drain near your sorority house, be thankful that you were counted in the census.

If you live off campus in a house or apartment, you can go to https://my2020census.gov/ to be counted. If you live in the dorms, QU will include you in its census report.

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