Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Hundreds Attend Illiana Expressway Meeting in Peotone

By Ann Baskerville

Hundred of citizens attended a public hearing on the proposed Illiana Expressway tonight at Peotone High School.   The hearing was held by the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation for the purpose of presenting and requesting comments on the Illiana Corridor Study Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The EIS describes results of the study team's evaluation of the three proposed corridors (A3S2, B3, and B4) and the "no-build" alternative that have been carried forward for further study.

Detailed map of the proposed corridors here.

A group from Lowell, Indiana collects signatures against the building of the Illiana Expressway

Several elected officials and candidates for office attended the meeting.  State Representative Larry Walsh, Jr. stated he is "not a big fan of the A3S2" corridor.  Walsh stated the purpose of the Illiana is to be an alternative to Interstate 80, and, with the A3S2 corridor connecting with I-55 about 3 miles from I-80, it "defeats the purpose."  Also, Walsh stated, the "Village of Channahon is completely opposed to it" and "building a bridge over the Des Plaines Rives would not be cost effective."

State Senator Patrick McGuire stated he attended the hearing "to listen and learn."  McGuire continued, "The Illiana Expressway could potentially have great economic effects."  McGuire stated that while studying and planning the Illiana, we need to "be sure to protect and limit damage to the environment and people."

Will County Board Chair Jim Moustis stated the Will County Board has not taken an official position on the Illiana Expressway.  Moustis went on to say that in his opinion, the B3 Corridor is the the most cost-effective, the most efficient, impacts the fewest people and property owners and is the least intrusive.  Moustis went on to say he believes the B3 can be built in a timely fashion, can attract private-sector investors, and is the corridor that can carry the most truck traffic off I-80.

Judy Ogalla, a Will County Board District One candidate, stated her greatest concern is the people who have lived with the threat of the Peotone Airport for 20 years are now the same people dealing with the threat of the Illiana Expressway taking their land.  Ogalla stated it is disgrace that the State "does not respect people at all."  Ogalla stated Illinois has some of the best farmland in the world and if development continues to build over all the good soil, it will "be too late when we wake up to the fact that we need farmland for food."  Ogalla said there are enough existing roads that could be upgraded to handle the truck traffic.  Ogalla stated she hopes people tell State Senator Toi Hutchinson, "no more tax and spend quick take bologna." Ogalla stated people are being put under great stress by passing the quick-take legislation before deciding if the road will be built, "putting the cart before the horse."  Ogalla stated she hopes "anyone reading this will register to vote and vote out incumbents who don't support your property rights."

State Senator Sue Rezin did not vote for quick-take eminent domain for the Illiana.  Rezin stated she is concerned for people who may have bought real estate at the height of the market whose home values have plummeted.  Illiana Corridor Study documents have stated that in regards to determining a fair market value for people forced to sell: "Many property values nationwide have recently decreased due to the economy; however the Illiana project schedule and availability of land acquisition funds are independent of the market.  By law, properties must be appraised at their current value." 

Rezin disagrees with this.  Rezin stated that people who bought at the market's high may owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth currently.  Rezin advocated that all people forced to sell for the Illiana be paid at least as much as amount the homeowner still owes on the mortgage.  Rezin stated affected propery owners should be paid, "the full value of what they've invested plus more for the upheaval" involved with a forced sale.   Rezin has heard from many Wilmington residents and at tonight's meeting learned of a new concern: how will the Illiana affect the taxing bodies of Wilmington schools?  A citizen gave testimony during the public forum that if the Illiana goes through the Water's Edge subdivision in Wilmington, many homes will be taken off the tax roles, impacting schools and other bodies that rely on local property tax revenues.

Public Forum on Illiana Expressway:
Peotone Village President Richard Duran stated the Village of Peotone passed a resolution supporting Corridors B3, B4.  The resolution also stated the Board of Peotone is against quick take:

Mayor of Channahon, Illinois Joe Cook spoke out against the A3S2 corridor:

Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr testifies that the Illiana B3 corridor will have a tremendous negative impact on Wilmington.  Orr stated "We have constantly presented an alternative that will reduce if not eliminate those impacts by utilizing a small portion of Midewin Tallgrass Prairie....without any consideration given to that alternative the City of Wilmington passed a resolution of the No Build option for the Illiana Expressway":

Members of the public and homeowners in the proposed Expressway's path raised questions about how the State would buy each homeowner's land, how would the State determine a price, and other questions related to land acquisition: