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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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Bald Eagle Festival to Take Place at Pere Marquette Lodge
GRAFTON, IL (, January 9, 2018 - Every year, when the ground turns frosty and the river carries chunks of broken ice southward, the Bald Eagle comes to Grafton, IL to make its' winter home. It's eagle season again and spectators are celebrating the return of the bird by exploring local eagle hot spots, capturing the birds on film and participating in dozens of eagle-themed programs throughout the region. We welcome our feathered friends with open arms and even hold a festival in their honor.

The Bald Eagle Festival is celebrating its 8th year at the Lodge and is consistently a crowd favorite drawing attention from all over the St. Louis Metro area. The festival will take place on January 28th from 11am to 3pm at Pere Marquette Lodge in Grafton, IL. The historic Lodge is located within Pere Marquette State Park, which is known for its scenic outlooks, hiking trails, educational programs and of course, bald eagles.

Live music will be provided by Misty Ridge, and the World Bird Sanctuary will showcase the Bald Eagle and several other birds during their educational programs at 11am, 1pm and again at 3pm. Festival goers can enjoy unique vendor booths, live music, face painting, children's crafts, restaurant favorites and wine tasting.

The festival will be held indoors and entry is free. Tickets to the World Bird Sanctuary Show are $3 per person and will be sold at the Pere Marquette Lodge Front Desk starting at 10am the day of the festival. Tickets can also be purchased in advance on the Eagle Festival Event page at Tickets cannot be used for a different show time than they are purchased for. For more information about Pere Marquette State Park and Lodge call 618-786-2331.

Metro Landing of Swansea
Various partners and stakeholders took part in the official groundbreaking ceremony marking the start of construction for Metro Landing of Swansea. Pictured from left to right are: Aaron Burnett, principal, Bywater Development; John Nations, president and CEO of Bi-State Development; David Dodson, principal, Bywater Development; Illinois State Senator James Clayborne; James Nations, chairman of the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA); Illinois State Representative Jay Hoffman; Swansea Mayor Mike Leopold; Mary Kane, board member for the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA); John Langa, vice president of economic development for Bi-State Development, and Mike Lundy, executive director of SWIDA.

Senior Apartment Living at Metro Landing of Swansea
SWANSEA, IL (, January 9, 2018 - SWIDA, Bywater Development Group and Bi-State Development broke ground on the $10.9 million Metro Landing of Swansea, a development that will introduce senior apartment living immediately adjacent to the Swansea MetroLink Station in Swansea, Ill.

The transit-oriented development (TOD) project will feature a handsome three-story building with 62 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for older adults seeking an independent lifestyle. With convenient access to MetroLink and the MetroBikeLink trail, residents will be able to easily reach restaurants, retail, entertainment venues, recreational locations, employment centers and medical facilities throughout the bi-state region.

Public Meeting for I-270 Bridge Replacement over Mississippi River
COLLINSVILLE, IL (, January 7, 2018 - The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will host a public meeting, January 17, to discuss the proposed replacement of the Interstate 270 Bridge over the Mississippi River in Madison County.

The public meeting will be held in an open-house format at the following times and locations:

Wednesday, January 17 4 - 7 p.m.
Southwestern Illinois College - Granite City Campus, 4950 Maryville Road Granite City, IL

Participants will have an opportunity to learn about the project and provide comments. Exhibits will be on display. Staff will be available to discuss the project and answer questions. Representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), a key partner in this study, also will be available. Written comments will be accepted at the meeting. They also can be mailed within two weeks following the event. For more information about the project, visit

The meeting will be accessible to individuals with disabilities. Anyone needing special assistance should contact Karen Geldert at (618) 346-3157. Persons planning to attend who will need a sign language interpreter or other similar accommodations should notify IDOT through the TTY/TTD number (800) 526-0844/or 711; TTY (Spanish users) (800) 501-0864/or 711; and/or for Telebraille dial (877) 526-6670 at least five days prior to the meeting.

Unemployment Rate Drops in All Metro Areas for Sixth Consecutive Month
SPRINGFIELD IL (, December 31, 2017 - Unemployment rates decreased over-the-year in November in all of Illinois's metropolitan areas, according to preliminary data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Data also show nonfarm jobs increased in ten of the metropolitan areas and decreased in four.

In a release, IDES Director Jeff Mays said, "It is encouraging that job growth was reported in ten of the fourteen metro areas. More than 30,000 of those jobs were created in the Chicago Metro area, so we need continued stronger growth statewide."

The industry sectors recording job growth in the majority of metro areas included Professional and Business Services, (11 of 14), Mining and Construction (10 of 14), Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities (10 of 14), Manufacturing (9 of 14), Education and Health Services (9 of 14), and Leisure and Hospitality (8 of 14).

Not seasonally adjusted data compares November 2017 with November 2016. The not seasonally adjusted Illinois rate was 4.7 percent in November 2017 and stood at 12.2 percent at its peak in this economic cycle in January 2010. Nationally, the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in November 2017 and 10.6 percent in January 2010 at its peak. The unemployment rate identifies those who are out of work and looking for work, and is not tied to collecting unemployment insurance benefits.

Used Tire Removal Actions in East. St. Louis and St. Clair County
EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (, November 5, 2017 - Illinois EPA Director Alec Messina has announced the completion of used tire removal actions in the Metro East St. Louis region. The used tire removal is part of the Agency's efforts to assist units of local government in providing and maintaining a healthy environment by removing used tires from public and abandoned properties.

"This program is a success thanks to the coordinated efforts of our local government partners," said Director Messina. "These collections are necessary to remove the hazards of used tires from our communities."

In total, more than 288 tons, approximately 23,000 used tires, were collected in St. Clair County. The St. Clair County Health Department sponsored a Units of Local Government tire collection at an Illinois Department of Transportation property in Lebanon. Monroe County Highway Department and Monroe County Road District brought collected tires to this location. A separate collection area was set up in East St. Louis to assist the city with their collection. In East St. Louis alone, 162.76 tons of used tires were collected.

Government entities participating in the St. Clair County Collection included: Belleville, Cahokia, Caseyville, Caseyville Township, Centreville, Centreville Township, Columbia, Dupo, Englemann Township, Fairmont City, Fairview heights, Fayetteville Township, Freeburg Township, Illinois Department of Transportation, Lebanon Road District, Marissa, Mascoutah, Millstadt Township, Monroe County Highway, Monroe County Road District, New Athens Township, Prairie DuPont Levee District, Shiloh, Smithton Township, St. Clair County, St. Clair County Clean Sweep, St. Clair County Highway, St. Clair County Road District, St. Libory, Sugar Loaf Township, Swansea, Washington Park.

Units of local government assist in the coordination of the collections, which allows the Illinois EPA to collect and properly dispose of the waste tires that have been collected from public properties, including roadsides, public parks and abandoned sites.

Dumped tires can contaminate air, land and water and serve as habitats for disease-carrying insects, particularly mosquitoes. Though we are entering the winter months, removal of tires before spring rains arrive will further reduce the threat of mosquito-borne diseases.

Through the Used Tire Program, used tires are properly disposed of at a registered, commercial used tire processing facility in Illinois. Some tires are retreaded and reused, and others are recycled into a variety of products and uses; but most are shredded into a high-energy fuel supplement known as tire-derived fuel and are burned in power plants, industrial boilers or cement kilns for energy recovery. The Illinois EPA's Used Tire Program is funded by a $2.50 per tire fee that consumers pay when purchasing tires at retail.

"From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama" Exhibition
SPRINGFIELD, IL (, November 5, 2017 - The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will help celebrate the state's 200th birthday with a major new exhibit about the four presidents who have called Illinois their home, said ALPLM Executive Director Alan Lowe.

The exhibit, entitled "From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama," will explore their connections to the Prairie State, their political battles, the first ladies who helped them succeed and much more.

Visitors will see amazing documents and artifacts, including Ronald Reagan's yearbook from his high school days in Dixon, the table where Ulysses S. Grant's accepted Robert E. Lee's surrender during the Civil War, an original draft of Barack Obama's speech at the 50th anniversary of the Selma civil rights march, and the briefcase Abraham Lincoln used as president.

"From Illinois to the White House" opens March 23 and runs through the end of 2018.

"Illinois helped shape these leaders, and they in turn helped shape Illinois and the entire country. As we celebrate the state's bicentennial, it seems appropriate to take a close look at their lives and legacies," Lowe said.

"We're bringing together artifacts from more than a dozen institutions and private collectors for what will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit," Lowe added.

Items in the exhibit come from, among others, the U. S. Grant State Historic Site, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Barack Obama Presidential Library, National Portrait Gallery, Chicago History Museum and Wayne Whalen, chair emeritus of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. The John Ullrich Foundation of Decatur has provided generous support.

The exhibit will be housed in the ALPLM's Illinois Gallery, a space dedicated to rotating exhibits on state history. There will be no extra fee to see "From Illinois to the White House: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan, Obama." It is provided as part of regular admission to the Lincoln museum (212 N. 6th Street, Springfield).

For more information, visit

New, Improved 'Getting Around Illinois' Website
SPRINGFIELD, IL ( - The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has introduced a redesigned that provides continually updated information in a mobile-friendly format that's more convenient for the motoring public in Illinois.

"We are very excited to provide this new-and-improved resource for travelers," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn. " is a great place to get important information - from winter road conditions to construction site locations to road or bridge closures - for any trip, any time of the year. The new mobile-friendly format will get travelers the information they need quickly and conveniently."

In keeping with the demands of today's users, the new website includes the ability to identify and zoom in to your location, travel route or destination, whereas the former site offered a static map that provided a broad view of a user's overall location. Additionally, the new website is operated by a cloud-based system, creating a better opportunity to provide real-time information and reducing potential system downtime.

As construction season gets underway, work zone information throughout the state is accessible by selecting the map's "road construction zone" layer to see where a work zone is located, how long it will be in place and what type of work is being done.

One of the more popular features of is the winter road conditions map, which averages more than 2 million visitors during snow-and-ice season and is regularly used by news media and shared widely on social media. The new map features an enhanced color scheme that better aligns with current map technology used by surrounding states, creating a more seamless travel experience for truckers and tourists, and is easier for color-blind individuals to discern.

Drury Inn & Suites Completes Renovation of Hotel in O'Fallon, Illinois
O'FALLON, IL ( - The Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois, has completed a full renovation to the property's 180 guest rooms and suites, public areas and more than 2,800 square feet of meeting and event space.

Renovations to the hotel's guest rooms include new mattresses and headboards, carpet, paint, window treatments, lighting and artwork. All of the guest bathrooms also received new showerheads, hair dryers and soft goods. The public and meeting areas of the hotel received upgraded lighting, new furniture complete with USB plug and play charging ports and artwork inspired and reflective of the St. Louis landscape.

"This is a great, fresh look for our property," said Ashley Timmons, general manager, Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois. "Our upgrades were influenced by guest feedback and were made with their satisfaction in mind. We're excited for our guests to experience our new look and feel."

The hotel is 20 minutes east of downtown St. Louis off I-64. Conveniently located near Scott Air Force Base, the hotel is also near a wide variety of local attractions. Because of its central location and numerous amenities, Drury Inn & Suites St. Louis O'Fallon, Illinois, is an ideal location for business and leisure travelers. Call 1-800-325-0481 for more information or reservations.

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