Illiana Highway

Seen by many as the road that will make the South Suburban Airport a reality, if built, the Illiana Expressway will become the third major highway into the Chicago-land area from Northwest Indiana. Both IDOT and INDOT have agreed on the B-3 Corridor for the highway which will have the route begin in Wilmington, IL and ending in Lowell, IN. A route has determined and land acquisition is expected in 2014-2015.

Appraisals Rattle Landowners on Illiana

Some landowners along the proposed Illiana toll road said the state jumped the gun when it sent letters saying their property would be appraised in the next 30 days.

The project doesn’t have the federal stamp of approval, or “record of decision,” that is expected by May 30.

Ten appraisal firms are working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to acquire some 350 parcels, said IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller.

“This is just part of the appraisal process. We will not be making any final offers until we receive a final Record of Decision,” Miller said via email.

“They say they won’t do that with the Illiana Corridor, but will they?” said Will County board member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, whose property IDOT needs for a proposed south suburban airport in Peotone.

The state has bought 85 parcels, totaling over 3,300 acres, for the airport near the toll road before receiving formal approval from the federal government. IDOT has spent $47,888,945 acquiring the property.

The airport master plan is still under review by the Federal Aviation Administration and the environmental impact study is ongoing.

The state’s quick acquisition of property for the airport has rattled some landowners along the proposed toll road.

One appraisal letter, received by Virginia Hamann, a dairy farmer in Peotone Township, said the William H. Metz firm would be inspecting her property within 30 days.

“Over my dead body,” said Hamann, who is leading the No Illiana 4 Us group in opposition to the project to build a new 47-mile tollway from I-55 in Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Ind.

Hamann said she will not let anyone on her property without a court order.

“This is bullying and intimidation by IDOT and it needs to stop,” she said, adding that the corridor’s route has not been finalized and there is no federal approval yet.

“Would IDOT treat their own grandparents like this? This is absolutely disgusting,” she said.

“I didn’t think they would appraise it until after they got the OK,” said Alan Brown, who could lose his home and 10-acre site in Wilton Center. With depressed property values now, he said he will not get his money of his property, which he purchased in 1990.

The unemployed construction worker said he is having a “hard time right now” and doesn’t have money for an attorney.

“I would rather do it and get it over with,” Brown said of the pending sale of his land. “It’s been (talked about for) two years. It’s aggravating. At least my property is being taken. I won’t have to live next to (the tollway).”

Once IDOT gets federal approval, it will make formal offers via certified mail between June 2014-15, said Mike Hansen, the ombudsman hired by the state to work with landowners, at a meeting in Peotone earlier this month.

Landowners who want to make a counteroffer should get their own appraisal, he told them.

They have the right not to have an appraiser on their property, but Hansen said, “Many times it helps if the owner is there to point out certain features. The appraiser wants to see everything about your property.”

A meeting on protecting property rights will be at 6:30 p.m. April 7 at the Peotone American Legion Hall, sponsored by No Illiana 4 Us.

Construction could begin in spring 2015 and the road would take three years to complete.

It is being financed through a public-private partnership.

IDOT has announced four finalists that can bid on the Illinois portion of the project:

—Illiana West Mobility Partners, with equity member Cintra Infraestructuras SA and lead contractors Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. and White Construction Inc.

—Illinois Corridor Connection Group, with equity members ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. and Fengate Capital Management Ltd., and lead contractors Dragados USA Inc., F.H. Paaschen, S.N. Nielson and Associates LLC, and William Charles Construction Co.

—Illinois Mobility Partners, with equity members Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Plenary Group USA Ltd. With lead contractor Illinois Mobility Constructors, which includes Fluor Enterprises, Lane Construction Corp. and Granite Construction Co.

—WM Illinois-Illiana Partners LLC with equity members Meridiam Infrastructure Illiana LLC and Walsh Investors LLC and lead contractor Walsh Construction Co. IL.

The selected team will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Illinois portion of the Illiana tollway, according to IDOT. They will each make a presentation at an April 3 forum for disadvantaged business enterprises and small businesses that are interested in working on the project.

Meanwhile, there is a pending lawsuit that claims the Federal Highway Administration violated federal law by approving the environmental study. The complaint, filed in July 2013 by the Environmental Law and Policy Center on behalf of Openlands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association, says that IDOT and the Indiana Department of Transportation failed to establish the need for the road and properly evaluate alternatives to the proposed tollway route. The study was based on inflated population and employment projections and failed to thoroughly evaluate how the tollway would impact state and federally protected natural resources, the lawsuit claimed.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

BREAKING: Illinois Begins Appraisal Process for Illiana

Illinois home and landowners within the projected right of way of the proposed Illiana Expressway have begun receiving letters from appraisers asking for permission to do on-site inspections.

Virginia Hamann, a farmer on the west side of Peotone, said she was shocked to get a letter requesting permission for an on-site inspection of her home and property this week because the 47-mile toll road has not yet won federal approval.

"IDOT has trampled on property rights over here for 20 years, and it started with the airport," she said, referring to property purchases the Illinois Department of Transportation already has made for the proposed airport at Peotone.

IDOT has hired 10 firms to work on appraisals, and letters recently have been sent to landowners on behalf of IDOT requesting an inspection of their property, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

As part of the overall land acquisition process, there already has been regular contact between IDOT and landowners within the corridor, she said.

"This is just another step in that process," she stated in an email to The Times.

Indiana property owners will not receive letters seeking access to property for appraisals until the Federal Highway Administration issues a record of decision to proceed with the expressway, said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton. Federal approval could come as early as May.

Some property owners in Indiana have received letters asking for permission to access property for field work, such as surveys and soil sampling, Pinkerton said.

IDOT and INDOT conducted their last public hearings on the expressway Feb. 18 in Lowell and Feb. 19 in Wilmington, Ill., before submitting the environmental impact statement for the expressway for federal approval.

The Illiana Expressway would run from Interstate 65, just northeast of Lowell, to Interstate 55, near Wilmington. It has a projected cost of $1.5 billion. Construction could begin as soon as late spring 2015.

Hamann questioned why Illinois would begin hiring appraisers if the environmental impact statement has not yet won federal approval. In addition, neither state has yet issued a request for proposals for the private investment they say will help pay for the expressway.

"They're spending money like they have it, but everyone knows the state of Illinois is broke," she said.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Surveyor Won't Give Illiana Pass on Regs

CROWN POINT | Lake Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. said Wednesday he will not relax the county's stormwater drainage regulations for the proposed Illiana Expressway.

The surveyor publicly released his statement to the Indiana Department of Transportation in response to the state's request he not require the highway's developer comply with every detail in the county's stormwater management and clean water regulations.

HNTB, a Midwest engineering firm working on the project asked Emerson to use his authority to alter the standards on drainage ditches, detention basins, flood plain storage and the amount of water that can be released back into the environment by man-made storage facilities after a heavy rain.

HNTB said those standards could require larger bridges and increase the cost of the project.

Emerson said he couldn't go along with that. "The Lake County Surveyor's office will review any request for waivers on a case-by-case basis ... after a thorough review of the project specifications."

The Illiana would be a 47-mile toll road, which would stretch from Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. State officials are willing to pour $1.5 billion into its construction to relieve truck traffic congestion on other local highways.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

CMAP Officials Left Off Invite to Illiana Planning Council

Maybe their invitation got lost in the mail.

The Illinois Department of Transportation yesterday named 41 people to a new Freight Advisory Council that will advise the department on how to maintain and even improve Illinois' position as the freight hub of the nation.

Included are a broad range of private- and public-sector officials, including executives from Caterpillar Inc., the Illinois Petroleum Council and CenterPoint Properties, plus Chicago Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur, IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider and Will County Executive Larry Walsh.

Not on the list is anyone from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, this area's official gatekeeper for federal transportation money, which last time I looked had something to do with the movement of freight. So, what's up?

It's strictly happenstance with no slight intended at all, says an IDOT spokesman. "This has more of a statewide focus and is primarily seeking input from the private sector," he continued, adding that, after all, Illinois has 11 official MPOs, or metropolitan planning organizations, in federal lingo.

Of course, none of the other 10 represents an area with almost 10 million people. And none of them vehemently opposed IDOT's prized proposed Illiana Expressway, as CMAP did with vigor, charging that the road never will pay for itself. Beyond that, it's surely a fluke that Will County strongly pushed for the road, which would be near CenterPoint's Joliet Arsenal property. And it's probably not worth mentioning that the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, which accused CMAP of being biased against the suburbs, has a seat on the panel, too.

Golly, it just has to be one of those things, I guess. Don't you just love a good coincidence?

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Expressway Eligible for Low Interest Loan

The Illiana Expressway is eligible for a federal loan to allow the states to wrest a better deal from private investors and reduce the overall financing cost of the $1.5 billion project.

Indiana and Illinois are able to apply for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program that can lend money at a low fixed rate for up to one-third of the cost of the project.

“The Illiana Corridor project is creditworthy and a good candidate for TIFIA because it improves interstate commerce,” Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York said Monday. “Today’s formal invitation is an important step in securing the lowest cost financing that will result in lower pricing from the private developer teams for both states.”

Each state has selected four investment teams to bid on designing, building and operating their respective portions of the Illiana Expressway. Construction is slated to start in 2015.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill., and will operate as a toll road.

Indiana has forecast it will spend $80 million to $110 million upfront to get the road built. Illinois' upfront costs are expected to be between $450 million and $500 million.

The federal loan is important because it is money investors can draw on for their share of the cost. The interest rate on the federal loan is tied to U.S. Treasuries, which means it will carry a lower interest rate than can be secured on the private market.

Investors hope to recoup their money from a "milestone" payment from the states once the project reaches a certain point, as well as from annual "availability payments" the states will fork over once traffic is whizzing up and down the expressway.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation are wrapping up a final environmental impact statement for the expressway. The states are hoping for approval in the spring.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana Will Impact Your Wallet and Environment

To the long list of arguments against wasting $1.25 billion on Gov. Pat Quinn's beloved Illiana Expressway, add this: "At least one lactating female northern long-eared bat" was found within the area that would be impacted by the project.

The mother bat — and the father and offspring it evidences — were cited by the U.S. Department of Interior in response to a draft environmental impact statement prepared by planners in Illinois and Indiana. Together, the states are planning a 47-mile toll road that would connect I-55 near Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Ind.

The Interior Department is worried about the long-eared bat, which could be added to the endangered species list in October. It also mentions the sheepnose mussel, the blackside darter, the blue-spotted salamander and assorted other species that are declining in population. It suggests revisions to the Illiana plan that would prevent common species of deer and frogs from ending up as roadkill. And it notes that the planned expressway could diminish visitors' enjoyment of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, a protected wildlife refuge.

Its most potent recommendation is to eliminate an interchange planned at state Route 53 in Will County. That interchange would handle truck traffic from the CenterPoint Intermodal Center — to the detriment of the Midewin refuge, according to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

All of this is fodder for the lawsuit filed by conservation groups that want to stop the Illiana. But the Interior Department doesn't have that authority. Its comments are part of the process through which the states seek federal approval to begin construction.

Still, the comments ought to resound even with those who aren't moved by the plight of lactating bats.

"The projected 2040 increases in accessibility, mobility, population, jobs and other parameters used to justify the construction of the Illiana Toll Road are very small in comparison with the No-Action Alternative, with both population and employment projected to increase by only about 1 percent," the Interior Department's letter says. "It appears that these changes would occur as a result of shuffling the locations of increased populations and jobs that are already expected to occur within the 18-county region around Chicago."

Where have we heard that before? Oh, right: The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The Interior Department is questioning whether the Illiana's very limited benefits justify the potential harm to wildlife. A CMAP staff analysis concluded last fall that the project's very limited benefits don't justify the expense of building it.

CMAP's staff determined that the road isn't needed and could end up costing taxpayers up to $1.1 billion because it won't generate enough in tolls. Its board voted against adding the Illiana to the region's list of prioritized projects, but was overruled by its policy committee after intense political arm-twisting.

That decision authorized IDOT to spend up to $80 million on engineering and land acquisition, on top of $40 million already spent. Bidding is underway. The project is barreling ahead.

Last month, IDOT released a "toll sensitivity analysis," a consultant's study that projects how much drivers will be willing to pay in tolls before abandoning the Illiana for a cheaper route. It came up with a 2040 base toll of 23 cents per mile for cars — almost four times what iPass customers now pay on the Illinois Tollway. Trucks would pay 53 cents per mile, and larger rigs would pay 79 cents.

Those are just projections, of course, but they are already higher than the CMAP figures that were blown off by the policy committee on its way to greenlighting the project.

Here's why this is all so alarming: In this supposedly public-private venture, the public shoulders the risk. If the Illiana doesn't generate enough in tolls to pay for itself, taxpayers have to make up the difference. If the truckers now clogging I-80 aren't willing to detour 10 miles south and pay 53 cents a mile, the states' private partners get paid anyway. Next on the endangered list: your wallet.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Feds Chastise Illiana Report

Two federal agencies want changes in a key portion of the proposed Illiana Expressway, a stance likely not enough to kill the already controversial road but one that could complicate its finances and spark a legal fight.

In separate comments filed this week, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency objected to a proposed Illiana interchange with State Route 53 in Will County. (Read the Interior Department comments below.)

The interchange is near CenterPoint Properties Trust's development of the old Joliet armory site, potentially a huge source of truck traffic for the Illiana. But it's also near the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, which is protected by federal law and which both agencies said would be jeopardized by the big road.

Both recommended the state instead "choose Design Option 6," which calls for no intersection with State Route 53 at all.

The comments immediately were seized on by longtime Illiana critic Howard Learner, head of Chicago's Environmental Law and Policy Center.

FEDERAL LAW

Federal transportation law generally bans developments that would hurt areas such as the tallgrass prairie unless there is no "feasible and prudent alternative," Mr. Learner said. In this case, he said, there is an alternative: dropping the interchange. But that "could lead to less traffic to a road that already has financial viability concerns."

Such concerns were raised by the staff of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, though CMAP's policy committee eventually overruled the staff and voted to endorse the road.

Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illiana's main advocate, noted that the comments were made in regard to the draft Environmental Impact Statement IDOT has issued on the road.

"We will consider, evaluate and respond to all comments received," he said.

Mr. Tridgell also noted that the U.S. EPA could have issued a far sterner formal "environmental objection" to the road, and he emphasized that the final federal decision to green-light the road will be made by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But the IDOT spokesman also strongly suggested his department wants some sort of intersection between the Illiana and State Route 53. "We hope to see an interchange” there, he said. "That's our preferred alternative."

Mr. Learner responded that the Interior and EPA comments are "not a deal-stopper, but they could be the basis for a federal lawsuit. "If IDOT says they're going to stubbornly stick with their original plan, that's an issue the courts ultimately will decide."

A spokesman for CenterPoint declined to comment.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Four Teams on Short List for Construction of Indiana Portion of Illiana

Indiana officials have identified four developer teams for its short list to build and operate the Indiana portion of the proposed Illiana Expressway on Friday. The 47-mile tollway would connect Interstate 65 in Indiana to Interstate 55 in Illinois.

The teams announced Friday are:

The Illiana Corridor Transportation Group

Illiana East Mobility Partners

Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V.

WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC.

Those four were culled from six teams that applied to a recent Request for Proposals for teams to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the road.

The cost of the highway is estimated at $1.5 billion, with Indiana’s 12-mile stretch expected to be around $300 million. Indiana and Illinois officials are using a public-private partnership to finance the project saying it will speed construction.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also included the widening of a 12-mile stretch of I-65 between U.S. 30 and Ind. 2, in its call-out for proposals to make it more attractive for private investors.

The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Department of Transporation will meet with the teams over the next few weeks to discuss their ideas and the procurement process. Procurement for the Illinois portion is being handled by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

A final Request for Proposals will be issued this summer after federal officials grant environmental approval.

Construction on the road is anticipated to start in the late spring of 2015.

With the Illiana Corridor Transportation Group proposal, ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc. and Fengate Capital Management Ltd. would finance the project; Dragados USA, Inc., F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC, and William Charles Construction Company, LLC would serve as lead contractors; Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. would lead the engineering; and Illiana Corridor Transportation Group would operate and maintain the road.

ACS, which is headquartered in Spain, handles a variety of civil engineering, building and mining projects in Europe, South America, Australia, and the U.S.

In the Illiana East Mobility Partners proposal, Cintra Infraestructuras, S.A. would finance, operate and maintain the road, while Ferrovial Agroman US Corp and White Construction, Inc. would serve jointly as lead contractors, and Janssen & Spaans Engineering, Inc. would handle the design and engineering.

Spain-based Cintra operates the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road, as well as thousands of miles of other roads in North America and Europe.

In Isolux’s proposal, the company would finance, operate and maintain the road, while Corsan-Corviam Construccion, S.A. would serve as lead contractor and a joint venture of AZTEC Engineering Group, Inc. and TYPSA would be the lead engineering firm.

In mid-February, the Indiana Finance Authority chose Isolux to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a stretch of Interstate 69 between Bloomington and Martinsville. It also operates toll roads, power lines and solar farms in the United States, India, Europe and South America.

In WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC’s proposal, Meridiam Infrastructure Illiana IN, LLC and Walsh Investors, LLC would finance the project, Walsh Construction Company II, L.L.C. would serve as lead contractor, Parsons Transportation Group would be the lead engineering firm, and WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC would handle the operations and maintenance.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction handled the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway as well as other road, airport and building projects across the U.S.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

OPINION: Here are my Questions for Illiana

I challenge Rich James and others who feel a tingle up their leg about the Illiana Expressway to answer the following:

1. How will a toll road 20 miles distant from U.S. 30 and 25 miles distant from I-80 reduce traffic thereon?

2. Enumerate the permanent jobs apart from one or two toll collectors that Illiana will create.

3. Do you recommend the use of spoons instead of shovels so more temporary jobs will be created?

4. Would an expansion of Ind. 10 accomplish the same purpose at less cost?

5. Does Illiana increase the prospects for Gary/Chicago International Airport or Peotone?

6. Will those whose land will be taken be paid for inconvenience? Will we receive free lawyers as criminals do?

7. Will property values next to or near the Illiana increase or decrease due to Illiana?

8. To what extent will Lake County tax revenue be reduced?

9. If the Illiana proves to be a flop, who will end up paying the bill?

10. Who speaks up for the little guy?

- Bill Kowalski, Cedar Lake

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

OPINION: Illiana Challenges, Rail Possibilities

Might the Illiana Expressway project die? With governors of both Indiana and Illinois in favor of it, and local officials in the states’ regional planning agencies recently to include it on their lists of regional priorities, that seems unlikely.

And, in Indiana, the opposition to the proposed toll road has never moved beyond the arguments that can be made against any interstate highway — opposing the taking of largely rural, family-held property; the cutting-off of some local roads; the environmental impact (lost farmland, poorer air quality, light and sound pollution); added burden on emergency services; and the generic “no one will use it” claim.

As emotionally powerful as these arguments can be, transportation planners, and the political officials behind them, aren’t going to accept an argument that can be used anywhere and everywhere to block an infrastructure project.

But arguments against the Illiana from Illinois seem more robust, and particular to the Illiana situation. That’s surely because Illinois’ financial situation is much worse than Indiana’s, and so, to the extent the states will end up footing the bill for the expressway, the issue is more acute there.

Questions in Illinois regard how many drivers will use it and whether a toll road will be viable, in the sense of finding the balance that collects the needed revenue without discouraging an critical amount of drivers; what financial guarantees it appears the states will give to the yet-to-be-found private partner; and how the states’ expenses in planning and preparing for construction could grow. In short, the fear, and increasingly the conventional wisdeom, is that a broke state will inherit a white elephant.

Indiana looks at it mainly as a relief valve for the Borman, and considers the costs worthwhile. The action has been, and continues to be, on the Illinois side of the state line, though. It seems that the recent votes by planning agencies, with strong backing from most elected officials, sealed the deal. But, at least on the Illinois side, there continues to be disgruntlement in the area that really matters — the state purse.

Meanwhile, the proposed South Shore extension will most likely avoid the parochial opposition — it would go southward into communities made for it, the residential/retail corridor of west Lake County. And the benefit of to those communities and the ones immediately surrounding might overcome the “public transportation never pays for itself” argument.

The town of Fishers has recently approved a full redevelopment of its train station and surroundings, with some public participation in a mixed-use plan that will bring residents, businesses and recreational activity to the area. That sort of activity in Munster, Dyer and other communities could have benefits beyond those towns that make the regional advantages tangible enough that arguments used against a highway won’t be as effective against the railway.

Ideally, the rail expansion will get a fair cost-benefit evaluation, and the clear difference between service on this side of the state line and the other will begin to be narrowed.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Officials Worry About Emergency Services in Face of Illiana

CROWN POINT | Public officials made it known local emergency responders will need help if the Illiana Expressway is built.

"Our emergency medical services and our firefighters have to be our No. 1 priority," Cedar Lake Township Trustee Alice Dahl said Thursday at a lightly attended public hearing about the proposed road.

Lowell Town Councilman Craig Earley estimated the expressway will have Lowell emergency responders going to 50 percent more calls than currently, with no corresponding increase in revenue to fund those services.

Both made their point at a hearing to take public comment on an Economic Impact Study of the Illiana Corridor commissioned by the Indiana Finance Authority. Under Indiana law, the IFA must take public comment on any public works project being done as a public-private partnership, such as the Illiana Expressway.

The study found that land acquired for building the Illiana Expressway will result in $15 million in assessed value being dropped from local property tax rolls. That will translate into about $70,000 less in taxes for townships and other taxing entities.

However, according to the study, tax collections will begin to increase as the expressway project gets underway, resulting in $40.7 million in new tax revenues annually within 33 years. That figure includes excise and other taxes paid by people working the new jobs that will be created. Net new jobs eventually could exceed 10,000, according to the study.

Consultant Chandler Duncan said almost all the positive impact will come as the result of people moving into the region. The study did not find that large industrial or commercial enterprises will locate in the region because of the Illiana Expressway.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Late in the hearing, Lowell-area resident Ed Linden said the only reason there were eight members of the public at the hearing was because his wife had called and told everyone of them about it.

INDOT Illiana Corridor project manager James Earl said public notice of the meeting was posted as required by law 10 days in advance. He acknowledged that's not what people are accustomed to, because for the separate environmental impact study being done by INDOT and IDOT notices are customarily sent out to hundreds of people by email and U.S. Postal Service mail for every hearing.

More than 200 people attended a public hearing on the environmental impact study in Lowell on Tuesday night.

He also acknowledged no one from the IFA was actually at the hearing. But he affirmed all comments received would be entered into the public record for IFA's use.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Are Illiana Foes' Pleas Falling on Deaf Ears?

With days being checked off the calendar bringing a decision from the Federal Highway Administration on the Illiana Expressway closer, residents objections to the project are becoming more desperate.

Many appear to be coming to the realization that their protests and reasoning are failing to make an impact on those who will make the decision.

That was the scene that played out Wednesday during a public hearing on the proposed expressway held in Wilmington regarding the $1.3 billion project that will connect Interstate 55 with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

The Illinois Department of Transportation hosted the hearing. A similar hearing was held by Indiana DOT officials earlier this week in Lowell, Ind.

One such person was Washington Township's Ray Blomberg, who lives along Stony Island Road in eastern Will County and in path of the proposed 47-mile highway that would connect Illinois Interstates 55 and 57 to Indiana's Interstate 65.

Not only does Blomberg, 64, live in a house that would be demolished to clear the path for the highway, but so does his 91-year-old mother, Jessie.

"Where would we go? That's a good question," he said. "We don't have a place to go. I never envisioned this happening."

Several miles west in Wilmington, David Dodd, who's general manager for Miken Transportation, at Illinois Route 53 and New River Road, one of five businesses that will have to be relocated, said he didn't know what good his on-the-record objection would be, but he wanted them known.

Similar to many that have stated before him, Dodd said truckers will not use the road. He said they will find routes where tolls don't need to be fed. "I wanted to be able to say my piece," he said.

Roads that will be blocked by the highway's path include Ridgeland Avenue and Egyptian Trail, both east of Peotone; Crawford and Western avenues, between Beecher and Peotone; 88th Avenue, west of Peotone; Indian Trail Road and 17th Avenue, west of Old Chicago Road; and Stony Island Avenue and Klemme Road, both just west of the Indiana-Illinois border.

Officials note that 70 percent of the roads that intersect with the highway will not remain open.

The Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Study, for which Wednesday's hearing was held to gain additional comments, likely will not gain final approval until May, noted Illinois Department of Transportation project manager Steve Schilke.

The hearing drew a crowd of about 300.

If the project is approved by the IDOT, its Indiana counterpart and the Federal Highway Administration, land acquisition would begin this summer and take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Assuming that stays on course, actual construction wouldn't begin until 2015. In all, the $1.5-billion highway would take three years to complete.

The route of the highway under consideration begins just west of Wilmington at I-55 at Illinois 129 and runs mostly straight east to I-65 between 153rd and 163rd streets near Cedar Lake, Ind.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Officials Nailing Down Specifics...Except Toll Costs

WILMINGTON, Ill. | The proposed Illiana Expressway’s details are becoming more clear these days as officials from Illinois and Indiana show the proposed route – and how it will interact with surrounding roads and area wildlife.

Plans on display Wednesday at the Local 150 Training Facilities in Wilmington showed the route, along with what roads would intersect with it.

“This thing is starting to become a little too real,” Sharon Osgood, of Elwood, said. She said she does not like the idea of the Illiana being built. “I had hoped it would get caught up in bureaucracy and never happen, but now it looks like it might.”

Maps showed local roads that would cross the Illiana either as a bridge or underpass -- and others that would be cut off near the expressway.

Steve Schilke, a project manager for the Illinois Transportation Department, said studies and consultations in the past year determined roads which had justification to continue to exist.

In the eastern part of Will County near to the state border, Crawford Avenue, Western Avenue, Stony Island Avenue and Klemme Road will be closed to traffic as they approach the Illiana road.

Meanwhile, Kedzie Avenue, Yates Avenue and Cottage Grove Avenue will remain open, with the local traffic passing under the Illiana.

South of Beecher, Ill. 1 -- known in parts as Halsted Street -- will be the site of a major interchange with the Illiana.

The Illiana will stretch from Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 just west of Wilmington.

Illiana maps made available this week also showed locations for proposed passages that will allow wildlife in the area to be able to move about underneath the Illiana, rather than trying to cross the road.

Much of the passages under consideration are at the proposed road’s western end, although one such passage is just west of Stony island Avenue.

“They tend to follow trails, and we took those into account when designing these passages,” Schilke said.

Schilke, along with Indiana Department of Transportation project manager Jim Earl, spoke of the economic benefits of an Illiana Expressway.

The only detail they would not provide Wednesday was what some people considered to be the key question – How much will the tolls be on the Illiana?

Schilke and Earl said the two state legislatures will decide that matter, although they said the toll would be identical.

"It would not make sense for there to be differing fare plans,” Earl said. “We have to be in agreement with each other.”

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Concerns Abound as Illiana Moves Toward Reality

Residents living along the planned route of the Illiana Expressway are growing more concerned as drill rigs and surveyors make appearances on properties and states prepare to round up final approvals.

That was evident Tuesday as many of the around 200 people coming to Lowell Middle School for a public hearing expressed consternation about what happens next with their properties.

"Who pays your closing costs?" said Chris Pernick before about 150 people during public comment time. "Can farmers plant crops this year? What if the road goes in before they harvest? What then? You have to start telling these people what they need to know."

Brenda Krepf, in a gymnasium full of maps and posters, said she and her husband are preparing to move to the north side of their 64-acre farm off 159th Avenue. The Illiana Expressway's interchange with Interstate 55 will plow right through their home on the south side.

"We were hoping we could stay there," she said. "We built this house with the intention of staying there."

Tuesday's hearing was held to gather public comment on the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Study released at the end of January. That study will be the key document for winning federal approval. The public comment period ends March 10.

Indiana Department of Transportation project manager James Earl said property acquisitions will not start until federal approval is won, perhaps in May. Once a private investment team is selected to build the road, construction can start in 2015.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Not everyone at Tuesday's hearing opposed the road.

Brenda Roberts said her family homestead of about 150 acres is one-half mile north of the expressway's proposed route.

"I think it will raise the market value of my property and all the property around here," she said. "I think it will bring a lot of business into the area."

The bistate study group forecasts building the Illiana Expressway will raise $70 million in additional tax revenue in the first five years because of the new businesses that will spring up near it. That figure grows to $340 million over the expressway's first 30 years in operation.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

 

EDITORIAL: Illiana is 47 Miles of Black Ice

The Indiana and Illinois transportation departments are fast-tracking the process of imposing the private Illiana tollway.

"Public meetings" — their usual dog-and-pony shows — are to be held 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at Lowell Middle School and on Feb. 19th at the Local 150 Training Center, near Wilmington. This will fulfill their requirement of getting public input on their Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Why isn't it being held at Wilmington High School? The people of Local 150 would pave through the Garden of Eden if given a fat government contract!

If the Lowell schools are closed, they'll move it to Hebron, several miles past the proposed Illiana.

We'll get two minutes to speak! The gun to our collective heads is wrapped in velvet.

The people of Illinois and Indiana are being taken for a long and very dangerous ride, rubber-stamped by the gutless politicians, buttered up to approve it.

- Anthony Rayson, Outreach Coordinator for No Illiana 4 Us, Monee

Full story here.

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Durbin Demands Federal Action on Illiana, Airport

SAUK VILLAGE | U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Friday told about 200 community and business leaders getting a new federal transportation bill passed is essential to major infrastructure projects such as the Illiana Expressway and south suburban airport.

"There are so many projects and so much infrastructure that need to be built in this country," Durbin told his audience at a quarterly forum put on by the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. at the Sauk Village Municipal Center.

The current federal transportation bill known as MAP-21, which funded highway and other construction with $105 billion per year, expires in September. When President Obama signed it in 2012, it was the first time in three years Congress had managed to pass a full-fledged transportation bill.

Durbin and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., were asked later Friday during a news conference at the Pullman state historic site in Chicago about what the Thursday traffic pileup near Michigan City said about congestion and access to the Chicago-area via I 80/94.

“I think it shows exactly why we should build the Illiana Expressway to help ease congestion,” Kirk said.

Durbin said the issue is important because it relates to access to the Chicago area, which has an impact on the metro area’s economy and employment.

“Traffic is tied in to jobs,” Durbin said. “We want to improve the traffic flow because that will make it possible to create more jobs, which benefits the entire area."

In comments after the Sauk Village forum, Durbin said the Illiana Expressway project is vital to ensure that the Chicago Southland's infrastructure finally catches up to all the new development, including the CenterPoint Intermodal Center at Joliet.

"I am going to follow this closely," Durbin said of the proposed 47-mile expressway project. "I can see it. I have seen the truck traffic. I know we need to make sure CenterPoint is a success."

CenterPoint Properties 3,600 acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Joliet serves the BSNF railway's logistics park two miles to the south. Companies with buildings and operations at the center include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., DSC Logistics, Georgia Pacific, Potlatch, Sanyo Logistics, Maersk, and others.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It has a projected cost of $1.3 billion. It will be operated as a toll road.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., also said getting a new transportation bill passed is critically important.

"This transportation bill is important period," Kelly said at the Sauk Village event. "It's critical not just for all the infrastructure needs in Illinois, but for all the infrastructure in the whole country."

In the past, federal transportation bills funded highways and other improvements for a period of five years. That system broke down in 2009, when Congress merely passed extensions of the previous bill.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport or Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Six Contractors Bidding for Illiana Work

The five bid teams that responded to Illinois' request for qualifications for building the Illiana Expressway have told Indiana they want to do the same on the Hoosier side of the border.

In addition, a consortium led by Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V. has thrown its hat in the ring for the 12-mile portion of the expressway in Indiana only.

The six teams responded Friday to a request for qualifications to design, build and operate the expressway issued in November by the Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Department of Transportation.

“The IFA and INDOT are honored to see interest from such qualified and experienced companies,” Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York said.

IFA and INDOT will develop a shortlist from among the six to invite to respond to a request for proposals. It is anticipated responses will be submitted during the summer. Both states hope to conclude a deal by fall.

In all, more than 50 companies ranging from construction to engineering to toll road management firms teamed with the various investment houses to put in bids Friday.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It has a projected cost of $1.3 billion. It will be operated as a toll road.

INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation want the winning investment team to defray the $1.3 billion cost of the expressway by providing some of the upfront money needed to get construction underway. In exchange the investors would get a cut of tolls.

Some of the firms responding to the Indiana request are already involved in public-private partnerships in the bistate region and Indiana, including the controlling partner and operator of the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway.

Among equity investors that are leading the Indiana bid teams are Cintra Infraestructuras, S.A.; SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc.; and Walsh Investors LLC. All three also responded to the Illinois request.

Cintra Infraestructuras and Australian investment house Macquarie in 2006 won the right to operate and collect tolls on the Indiana Toll Road in exchange for a $3.8 billion lump sum payment to the state.

SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc. had expressed interest in being a private partner in the building of an airport at Peotone when former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was spearheading that drive.

Walsh Investors is a main partner in the East End Crossing Ohio River bridges project, which is being developed as a public-private partnership and is now under construction.

Also responding to the Indiana request was a team led by ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. and another led by Flour Enterprises Inc. Both of those also already responded to the Illinois request.

Full story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Farmers, Landowners Worried About Flooding, Landlocked Parcels From Illiana

Will County farmers have major concerns about access to their land and water runoff issues if the Illiana Expressway gets built.

Five or six farms will have sections that are landlocked because of the route of the 47-mile proposed tollway that will run from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.

All farms adjacent to the tollway could have flooding issues due to broken drainage tiles or water runoff from the expressway, said Mark Schneidewind, manager of the Will County Farm Bureau.

Schneidewind said farmers, farm bureau members and Illinois Department of Transportation staff met for more than two hours Tuesday to talk about the issues.

Some farm property would be landlocked by either frontage roads or overpasses that will be constructed along with the $1.3 billion Illiana, which is proposed as Illinois’ first public-private partnership and is in its planning stages. Construction is expected to start in 2015 at the earliest.

Originally, the Illiana Expressway route would have landlocked more than 20 properties, Schneidewind said Tuesday after the private meeting with IDOT ended. That number has shrunk, but something has to be done to provide access to the landlocked sites or the state should buy that land, he said.

Many more farmers may experience drainage and flooding issues if the tollway is built, Schneidewind said, adding that “road projects we’ve seen in recent years, including Interstate 355, had a lot of drainage issues.”

He said those attending Tuesday’s session pored over hydrology maps IDOT provided that show where retention ponds will be located and the routes runoff water will take to ditches.

Farm bureau members also stressed to IDOT that broken drainage tiles on farm property need to be permanently fixed before the tollway goes over them and locks in flooding problems for years.

Schneidewind said the farm bureau is neutral on the Illiana Expressway but is against IDOT using a “quick take” process to obtain land for the project.

Overall, however, IDOT has been good to work with, and the farm bureau plans to meet again in a few weeks with IDOT to finish reviewing the hydrology maps, he said, adding that “we still have a lot more (areas) to go.”

Meanwhile, IDOT is finalizing the Illiana’s environmental impact statement now that the regional planning agencies in Illinois and Indiana have approved the tollway. Once state and federal authorities sign off on the environmental impact statement, a public hearing will be held on the plan, likely in February or March, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

Full story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Four Reasons You Should Hate Illiana

We’re stoked.

It finally looks like taxpayers will spend $1.3 billion on the Illiana Expressway of legend as it reaches out to link Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill.

Illiana Fever! Catch It!

But before we get all giggly and giddy, consider four questions that might make you hate the Illiana.

1: A toll road to Joliet? Really?

Well, of course it’s not necessary in the way real interstate highways make life better. You need real interstates to reach Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

This road is not so much for you and your Honda. It’s for big trucks. You’ll make the trip from Lake County to Joliet marginally faster with the new road, but the Indiana share of the 47-mile road is at least $100 million.

For a $10 toll, don’t you want to go to somewhere more interesting than Joliet? To avoid charges of provincial parochialism, we’d ask Jolieteers the same question. How would a slightly faster trip to East Chicago enhance your life?

When the states commissioned the Illiana Expressway Feasibility Study eight years ago, they wanted to prove traffic would be diminished by an extra highway. What it showed, even then, was that traffic likely would not diminish on U.S. 41, but rise about 35 percent.

2: It’s that Peotone Airport hallucination again?

One way or another, political forces arrayed south of Chicago will prove with Mathematically Precise Queeg Missing Strawberry Logic that the Peotone Airport is necessary for future prosperity.

What an airport that does not exist really needs is a big highway that does not exist. It’s Existential Transportation Theory. If we build SOMETHING, then SOMEONE will come.

Their idea — and I wouldn’t make this up just to be funny — is that you’ll love this new highway precisely because it takes you to Peotone. Everybody wants to go there. It’s a hub, a destination. It’s like Disney World with airplanes.

Peotone Airport, you say?

Yes, the one that hasn’t been built and won’t unless any serving mayor of Chicago dies in mid-sentence, and the state legislature walks over his lifeless body. I think Hizzoners Daley and Emanuel actually have said the phrase “over my dead body.” The Peotone airport still masquerades as 5,000 acres of corn.

If you won’t take commercial flights from Gary, why will you drive to Peotone? It’s a trick question.

3: We need more big trucks?

Illiana will lighten truck traffic on the Borman Expressway. That was the odd theory. But when planners assessed the variables, they found Illiana would siphon only about 2.2 percent of traffic from the clogged Borman. Natural increases in traffic will put about 199,000 cars and trucks daily on the Borman by 2030. That’s compared to about 155,000 now.

Oops on the math forecast.

Illiana is designed — from the Illinois point of view — to funnel growing convoys of heavy trucks down an escape route away from the intermodal megalopolis of Joliet, the Illinois River and Will County.

So, good for Illinois. We’re happy they have so much business.

But newsflash. You do not live in Illinois, and what’s good for them may not be nearly as enchanting for you. Think what 5,000 more semis everyday on I-65 and U.S. 41 would look like.

The original traffic study suggested Illiana “would offer a speedy route to destinations in the fastest-growing sections of Lake County and Will County, Illinois.”

This is planner tomfoolery. What it might do is transform Lowell into a southerly sprawling version of Hammond. Wouldn’t THAT be lovely? Another rhetorical question.

As for you, where in “fast-growing” Will County do you want to go?

4: Is a $1.3 billion road twice as nice for $2.6 billion?

The truth is that no one knows how much this highway will cost, or who will pay for it. The $1.3 billion is a self-indulgent low-ball guess by enthusiasts. Other guesses suggest the cost could double that.

Why would you care?

Because billions spent on roads of dubious value are billions that can’t be spent on other, more necessary roads.

Which roads? That’s the right question. Just look around at your crumbling roads and bridges.

Unnamed mythical Easter Bunny-like “private partners” will help build the road, which makes the tax burden less. How much? Who knows?

Don’t worry. Be happy. Catch the Fever.

David Rutter was an editor at six community newspapers more than 40 years, including nearly a decade as managing editor of the Post-Tribune. His column appears Sundays in the Post-Tribune. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana May Push Forward Rail Extension

The two most significant events I’ve seen in nearly four decades of writing about government in Northwest Indiana happened in the last couple of weeks.

That’s quite a statement. And yes, it doesn’t bode well for the region. But hey, it might well show that we have turned a very large corner.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission last week overwhelmingly approved the Illiana Expressway in the face of passionate opposition. It’ll be the first significant Lake County highway project in five decades.

And about the same time, Lake County’s plethora of governments seemed just a step away — after years of jostling — from forming a countywide E-911 system.

Is there hope that NWI is coming together for the common good? I hope to tell you.

Before anyone decides to kick back and light a cigar, they should be reminded that there’s work to be done. And the next deadline is looming.

After the Illiana folks left the NIRPC meeting last week, the agency adopted a resolution supporting increased financial support for South Shore Line railroad expansion.

It’s nice that they did that, but resolutions are virtually spineless. Resolutions are what governmental bodies do when they don’t have the power to do anything else.

South Shore expansion from Chicago to Lowell should be next on the region’s agenda of moving out of the 1950s into the 21st century.

And, yes, it should happen now. South Shore expansion has been studied to death. It is time to acquire track, buy cars and hire conductors.

And the guy who’s grown most impatient is U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, the guy holding much of the money.

And the usually mild-mannered Visclosky laid down the law a couple months ago. He said he wants a local funding source to match the federal money he can acquire by March.

A local funding source ought to include state money and a local tax. And because there will be South Shore expansion to Valparaiso after Lowell, all of Northwest Indiana ought to pay for it. Don’t tell me that some Porter County people won’t slide over to Lowell to ride the new train to Chicago for jobs that pay 40 percent more than similar jobs here.

Settling on a new tax is a fairly dicey proposition. The General Assembly will have to authorize a new tax that would be adopted locally.

So how do we arrive at a consensus?

We need a facilitator, someone to bring us together. Because there isn’t a dominant city in Northwest Indiana, that consensus will have to be reached by committee. And that ought to be NIRPC.

By law, NIRPC had to vote on the Illiana. It doesn’t have to do anything in terms of South Shore funding. But it should if it wants to live up to its name of being a regional planning agency.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Twists, Turns Lie Ahead for Illiana

The quest for private investors with deep pockets and the rounding up of final federal approvals for the Illiana Expressway are now traveling in tandem following Thursday's vote in favor of the expressway at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Indiana and Illinois are now awaiting their first solid responses from investors while aggressively pushing forward environmental and engineering studies needed to win federal approval.

"The vote allows us to move forward with closing out the Tier II environmental study," Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton said Friday.

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna said, "(Thursday's) vote was notice to the investment community that something is happening."

Environmental studies needed to win federal approval for the expressway have been underway for two years. One of the last steps in producing what is called the Tier II environmental impact study will be a set of public hearings, one in Indiana and one in Illinois. Those should happen during January, Pinkerton said.

Both hearings will include an open microphone time where residents can make statements that will be taken down as part of the public record. Those comments become part of the environmental impact statement that is submitted for federal approval not long after.

If and when the federal government issues a record of decision on the environmental impact statement approving the project, INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin hitting the gas on preparing the right of way.

"Then we can move forward with the land acquisition and that sort of thing," Pinkerton said. "We can't move forward on that until we get the record of decision."

The tolled expressway would run from Interstate 65 in Indiana to Interstate 55 in Illinois. It would pass just north of Lowell and south of Cedar Lake before heading due west across the state line.

The other key to getting the project started is the landing of investors. Both states hope investors will see enough potential in the road to help finance some of its $1.3 billion price tag.

Next week IDOT will receive statements of qualifications from bidders who want to build and operate the 37-mile Illinois portion of the road under a public-private partnership. About a month later, IDOT hopes to develop a shortlist of finalists for the job, according to its request for qualifications issued in November.

INDOT wants qualifications from bidders for building and operating the Indiana portion of the road by Jan. 10 and anticipates announcing its shortlist Feb. 19, according to the Indiana Finance Authority's request for qualifications issued just after IDOT's.

Those shortlisted finalists will then get a formal request for proposals that they should respond to sometime in the summer. Both states hope to conclude a deal by fall.

INDOT and IDOT officials have said they will not build the road unless it makes financial sense, so getting proposals that lessen the cost of the road to both states is critical to getting it built.

Expressway investors and planners also will have to keep an eye on a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups, which allege the Federal Highway Administration erred in approving the Tier I environmental study for the expressway earlier this year.

The groups Open Lands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association allege the expressway would have a major impact on the Kankakee River and Midewin Tall Grass Prairie, endangering sensitive nesting areas and aquatic wildlife.

Story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

NIRPC Gives Green Light to Illiana Expressway

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission on Thursday voted in favor of the Illiana Expressway by a 76-20 weighted vote, waving through a massive road building project that could get underway as soon as 2015.

The vote means plans for the expressway can be submitted soon for final federal approvals and a search for private investors can kick into high gear. If the full NIRPC board had voted against the expressway, it would have stopped the project in its tracks.

"This was a difficult decision in the face of a lot of public opposition," said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson immediately after the vote. "I am sensitive to the citizens of Lowell who will lose their property. But we really have to think of the greater good."

The full NIRPC board made its decision by weighted vote, where each community's representative was assigned his or her share of 100 total votes based on his or her community's population. The unweighted tally was 29-8 in favor.

A crowd of about 300 packed the Sycamore Room at Woodland Park for the meeting.

Underlining the historic significance of the vote, Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement in the afternoon praising NIRPC for its action.

"I believe roads mean jobs, and today's vote on the Illiana Corridor Project brings us one step closer to more jobs for northwestern Indiana," Pence stated.

The NIRPC board took the day's central vote on the Illiana Expressway about 11:30 a.m., 2 1/2 hours after the meeting's start. That vote was taken on a motion to include the Illiana Expressway and widening of Interstate 65 from U.S. 231 to U.S. 30 in NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. Two other votes on the expressway yielded similar results.

The high stakes of Thursday's vote were made clear when INDOT Northwest Indiana Chief Bob Alderman, a nonvoting board member, made a long and impassioned plea for members to approve the expressway.

He reiterated all the arguments in favor of the Illiana Expressway but focused his most passionate argument on safety. He said maintaining the new expressway will make the Borman Expressway and other roads safer. He even recalled for his listeners the August Interstate 65 crash near DeMotte that killed four children and three adults.

"Are you comfortable with your friends and families and constituents traveling on those highways today?" Alderman asked near the end of his plea. "When you walk away from here today, do you feel you've done the right thing?"

Lowell Councilman Craig Earley countered Alderman's argument.

"They are talking about running thousands of semis down this toll road (Illiana Expressway)," Earley said. "So what makes this toll road safer than yours? There will be accidents."

Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid said if state officials were truly concerned with safety on congested roads, they would have rebuilt the Cline Avenue Bridge. Its closure has driven trucks onto East Chicago streets, endangering children and hurting businesses, Cid said.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from I-65, in Indiana, to Interstate 55, in Illinois. It would cost $1.3 billion to build, with state transportation officials hoping to raise some of that money from private investors.

Freeman-Wilson, who never declared how she would vote before Thursday's meeting, tipped her hand with the morning's first vote in favor of an air quality report on the expressway. When she finally spoke before the day's central vote, she said Gary's interests were aligned with the region's and that is why she supported the expressway.

Opponents called for the weighted vote. In hindsight, the better strategy may have been to allow a straight roll call vote to proceed. A roll call vote at NIRPC requires a majority of the whole body of 53 for a motion for it to pass. That means the motion to include the Illiana Expressway in NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan only succeeded by two votes.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. made a motion early in the meeting to delay the vote to another day because the NIRPC committee in charge of implementing its 2040 plan had been unable last week to come to a decision for or against it.

"We are taking people's homes with this," McDermott said in pleading for the delay. "We are changing the landscape of South Lake County."

The motion when seconded led to a lengthy discussion. It failed on a voice vote.

In October, the policy committee of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning voted 11-8 to include the Illiana Expressway in the agency's long- and short-range transportation plans, propelling the Illinois portion of the project forward.

Approval by both NIRPC and CMAP was necessary so that INDOT and IDOT could submit the projects for federal approval.

Story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana a NW Passage? I Don't Think So

Certain elements of our society, usually "progressive leaders," dub some naysayers to particular government projects NIMBYs.

For those not up on their alphabet soup, it's an acronym for "Not In My Back Yard." Movers and shakers in policy circles love to slam the heck out of NIMBYs for being shortsighted, selfish and uneducated enemies of progress.

But take a close look at the haters of the NIMBYs, and I'll bet you'll find the project they're pushing doesn't go through their own backyards. It goes through somebody else's.

We've been seeing it for decades in the region's grand quest for an Illiana Expressway.

From the way supporters of this would-be new major south Lake County interstate speak of the plan, one would think it akin to the elusive Northwest Passage. You know, the waterway long sought by early explorers to link the Atlantic and Pacific through North America — the waterway that has been mostly unnavigable because of arctic pack ice and, more recently, international right-of-way disputes.

Sound familiar?

I've yet to see evidence of overwhelming merit the Illiana, proposed as a toll road, would bring to our region.

In fact, the only thing the proposed Illiana holds in common with the ancient notions of uncharted spice routes and sea-to-shining-sea waterways are their elusive paths to reality.

I've been hearing about this proposed roadway for the decade I've lived in Northwest Indiana, and I'm assured by older, grayer colleagues its discussions far exceed my time here.

I realize plenty of otherwise brilliant transportation planners believe in the merits of the expressway, which would connect Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 65 in Indiana.

Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn — political oil and water, if I've ever seen it — both think it's a great idea, too.

But they haven't made their case to me — and certainly not to a number of Lowell-area and south suburban residents who would literally have the new expressway running through their backyards.

The Illiana would run considerably farther south than the region's established industrial and transportation corridors, in my view making it impractical.

If the prospects of a future third regional airport in Peotone, Ill., weren't so laughable, I might argue — as other Hoosier Illiana opponents have done — that an Illiana Expressway would help make that project a reality, flying in the face of Northwest Indiana's personal interest in seeing the Gary airport achieve such status.

But the proposed Peotone airport is still a series of farm fields, and I don't see that changing anytime soon — if ever.

In the end, neither my protests nor those of the Lowell-area residents will likely matter. A major Illinois transportation planning agency already has added the Illiana to its long-term plan. And it would seem the deck is stacked for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to do the same.

That is, unless NIRPC leaders listen to some of their south county constituents.

But why should they? After all, the proposed Illiana probably won't run through their backyards.

Story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Rail Project Trying to Piggyback on Illiana

A visionary rail plan piggybacking on the Illiana Expressway is gaining widespread notice but so far attracting little support from railroads.

Former Union League Club of Chicago President Frank Patton has been pitching his plans for an "Illiana Rail Bypass" to an impressive array of Indiana and Illinois officials and says he's ready to raise the $8 million needed for an environmental study.

As proposed by Patton, phase one of his proposed freight rail bypass would run 90 miles from Coal City, Ill., to Wellsboro, Ind., about six miles south of LaPorte. It would use about 47 miles of joint right-of-way with the Illiana Expressway, have no at-grade crossings, and operate as a double-tracked "toll road" for trains.

"We are breaking the mold here," Patton said on a recent afternoon as he spread out rail maps with the rail route outlined in red and green on a conference table at The Times' Munster office.

Patton said money for the environmental study and the building of phase one, which would cost around $3.5 billion, could be raised entirely from private investors. As such, it would be at the extreme end of the current rush to public-private partnerships, requiring very little government involvement.

In March, Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider rejected Patton's request to include the Illiana Rail Bypass in the current environmental study for the Illiana Expressway. But she did offer the Illinois Department of Transportation's assistance in providing information for any environmental study Patton might undertake on his own.

The reception from railroads has been even cooler.

"We oppose the idea of a freight railroad line running or built in association with the Illiana Expressway," said Joseph Ciaccio, president of the Illinois Railroad Association, which represents the interests of all six Class I railroads as well as numerous short line railroads operating in Illinois.

Railroads feel Patton's Illiana Rail Bypass could steer attention away from the $3.2 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program in Chicago, Ciaccio said. CREATE seeks to speed up freight movements and reduce traffic congestion by building grade separations and other rail improvements across Chicagoland.

The railroads do support the Illiana Expressway project, which would help speed truck traffic in and out of intermodal rail yards south of Chicago as well as relieve truck congestion on local roads, Ciaccio said.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said the Illiana Expressway will be important for the railroad's Global IV intermodal yard at Joliet as well as the region. But he said many of the problems the Illiana Rail Bypass seeks to resolve have already been taken care of for Union Pacific by the opening of Global IV in 2010.

But Patton brushes those arguments aside, pointing out the Illiana Rail Bypass could cut the current 25-hour trip from Galesburg, Ill., to the CSX intermodal yard at North Baltimore, Ohio, to just eight hours. That would result in huge savings in car leases, fuel and other expenses for railroads -- even if they were paying a per-car, per-mile toll to owners of the Illiana Rail Bypass, he contends.

"Everyone said to me don't pay attention to what anyone tells you, those are time savings just too good to ignore," Patton said.

Patton, who founded a software firm in 1970 that serviced major banks for more than 30 years, has now formed Great Lakes Basin LLC to find financing for the Illiana Rail Bypass. The idea was unveiled at DePaul University's Chaddick Institute in May and enthusiastically received by institute director Joe Schwieterman.

As for CREATE, Patton said the $3.2 billion to be spent on that program will not solve Chicago's congestion problems and his Illiana Rail Bypass will. He notes that he sees the bypass as a complement to CREATE, not a competitor.

The Illiana Rail bypass holds particular promise for Northwest Indiana, Patton said.

First, it would help get some of the train traffic off rail routes through lakefront cities. That would cut down on the long lines of traffic at rail crossings that pollute the air and waste precious time for truckers.

But more important would be the potential jobs impact, Patton said.

He points out the South Shore Freight railroad operates tracks that reach almost to Wellsboro. That line could serve as an important back door to the industrial corridor along Lake Michigan, including its struggling cities.

That would open up new opportunities for economic development from LaPorte County to Gary, Patton said.

"Just look at all the rail ads on TV," Patton said. "Their big deal is where there's rail, there's jobs. But right now all those trains just go right through Northwest Indiana."

Full story published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

NIRPC Votes to Approve Illiana Report

Full story originally published here.

A key committee of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission voted 8-3 with eight abstentions Tuesday to approve a report on the Illiana Expressway, allowing for a crucial vote of the entire organization next month.

The Transportation Policy Committee took the vote on a motion to approve a staff report on how the Illiana Expressway and the Interstate 65 widening will effect congestion on area roadways.

That report basically found building the proposed 47-mile Illiana Expressway from I-65 to Interstate 55 in Illinois will relieve some of the expected future congestion on area roads.

Building the Illiana Expressway would help reduce expected traffic on the Borman Expressway by about 8.6 percent by 2040, according to the the Congestion Management Process report prepared by NIRPC staff.

However, building the expressway would only reduce expected traffic on U.S. 30 by about 0.8 percent. Reduced congestion on U.S. 30 has been one of the big selling points of the road's backers.

According to the report, the biggest gains would come in cutting miles driven by trucks on main local arterials between 25 percent and 34 percent.

Without a vote in favor on Tuesday, the 12-mile Indiana portion of the Illiana Expressway would have been stopped in its tracks. That is because the Transportation Policy Committee must approve a congestion report for any significant expressway project before it can move through the rest of the NIRPC approval process.

“This is a prerequisite to do anything,” said NIRPC transportation planner Gary Evers. “If it fails at that vote, everything else is off the table.”

However, NIRPC attorney David Hollenbeck was tasked with making sure the favorable vote would stand, since with the eight abstentions it did not carry a majority of those voting. He told NIRPC Executive Director Ty Warner by phone it was his opinion the vote was valid and would stand, but he would research the matter further.

NIRPC Executive Director Ty Warner said after the meeting if the vote did not stand, the issue could be voted on again at the Dec. 3 meeting of the Transportation Policy Committee.

On Dec. 3 the Transportation Policy Committee is scheduled to vote on including the Illiana Expressway and I-65 project in its long- and short-range transportation plans. Then the full NIRPC board votes on Dec. 12 on including the projects in those plans.

Without a vote of the full board in favor of including both projects in the long- and short-range transportation plans, they cannot move forward.

Tuesday's meeting was a long and at times contentious one, with committee chairman Shawn Pettit allowing the public to ask questions during the meeting.

A broad range of people for and against the roadway attended, including local union officials and about a dozen concerned citizens from Lowell. Lawyers from groups suing to stop the Illiana Expressway also were there.

Doug Strayer, the secretary-treasurer of the Northwest Indiana Building Trades Council read a resolution from his council backing the building of the Illiana Expressway.

The resolution stated the expressway will be a critical factor in relieving truck traffic on other roadways as well as generating both short-term and long-term jobs.

South Lake County resident Sandy Linden pointed out a previous study conducted by a consulting firm showed the Illiana Expressway would only reduce expected traffic on the Borman Expressway by about 2.2 percent.

“The road is not in my backyard,” Linden said. “I am against tax money paying for a bad idea and there are thousands of people who agree with me.”

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Planning at Full Speed

Full story originally published here.

FRANKFORT ­— Now that the proposed Illiana Expressway has been given the go-ahead by a regional planning board in Chicago, state transportation officials have resumed their fast-paced planning for the new toll road, which would cut through southern Will County.

Steve Schilke, Illiana project manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation, met with Will County leaders Monday for a 90-minute update on the progress of the $1.3 billion road, a 47-mile link from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.

Schilke said IDOT hopes to have some final issues resolved with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state and federal environmental protection agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the end of this month.

While the discovery of the Hine’s emerald dragonfly brought planning for the Interstate 355 extension in Will County to a screeching halt back in the late 1990s, and the road opened a decade later as a result, Schilke said he does not expect that to happen with the Illiana.

Two endangered species — the sheepnose mussel and the stem borer moth — have been discovered in the vicinity of the Illiana footprint, Schilke said during the meeting held at the Frankfort Township Hall.

The northern long-eared bat also is in the vicinity, and though it isn’t on the endangered list, it was named a candidate for the list just last month, he said.

But Schilke said IDOT has encountered these species before during road projects and there are mitigation methods that are accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For instance, only mussel shells have been located in the Kankakee River, but if actual sheepnose mussels are found, they can be relocated.

Schilke also said IDOT has scrapped plans for an Illiana interchange at Route 53. Instead, planners are looking at placing one at either Riley Road or Old Chicago Road.

Also, in a stretch from U.S. 45 west to Cedar or Wilton Center Road, there are two possible Illiana paths. One would sever more farms but protect more wetlands and is favored by the Army Corps. The other, which would do the reverse, is favored by the Will County Farm Bureau, Schilke said.

Once those kinds of issues are resolved and the federal and state agencies sign off on the draft environmental impact statement, it will be released, and a public hearing will be held 30 days later. That could happen as early as Dec. 15, Schilke said.

Will County Board Member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, asked Schilke to consider holding the hearing after Christmas because the Illiana is a very emotional topic for eastern Will County farmers she represents who will be affected by the road. He said that would be taken into consideration.

Once the hearing is held, either in December or January, public comment will be taken for 45 days. Then a final plan will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration.

A final “record of decision” is expected in spring, Schilke said. If all goes according to plan, the state will find a public-private partner to build, operate and maintain the road, and construction could start in 2015 or 2016, he said.

Schilke also said if a record of decision comes in the spring, land acquisition would start immediately afterward and the state probably would own the majority of the land needed for the project by mid-2015.

Ogalla asked what would happen if there were no successful bidders. Schilke said it’s possible that the Illiana corridor would be protected and the remainder of the land would be purchased anyway.

Because this is the state’s first public-private partnership, county board member Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township, who is chairman of the Republican caucus and also serves as Frankfort Township supervisor, asked if a feasibility study would be done to make sure the road would be financially viable.

Schilke said once private partners bid on the job, officials will have a better idea if it will be a successful road and the state would get its $300 million to $500 million investment back over the life of a 35-year lease.

“If it doesn’t make sense for the state, we would walk away from it,” he said.

But state models project that the toll road, which is being designed to carry truck traffic away from truck-train transfer intermodals in Joliet and Elwood, would produce $2.5 billion to $3.8 billion over 35 years, enough to pay back the state and then some, especially at the higher estimate, Schilke said.

“We see this as a viable project,” he said.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Opponents of Illiana Turn Out in Droves to Bash Project

Full story originally published here.

LOWELL | A public comment meeting Tuesday night at ground zero for the Illiana Expressway in Indiana drew residents eager to register their protests and anxious about what happens next.

"I don't know what they are hoping to get from people at this meeting," said Dave Schaulat, who lives directly in the path of the planned expressway. "INDOT knows how many people are against this, but it obviously hasn't swayed their decision."

In the first 45 minutes of the meeting at Lowell Middle School, 170 people signed in to look at maps, ask questions and write out comments on forms provided.

The public comment meeting was organized by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, which will host two more meetings in Porter County. The meetings are designed to gather public comments before a vote of the full 52-member NIRPC board on Dec. 12.

NIRPC must approve including the Illiana Expressway in its long- and short-range transportation plans in order to win federal approval for the toll road. A vote is scheduled for December. The Indiana Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation are the expressway's chief backers and are in charge of its planning.

Lowell Town Council member Edgar Corns said he and three other council members voted against the Illiana Expressway in a vote earlier this year. Council member Ron Parker, who is one of 52 NIRPC board members who can vote on the Illiana Expressway in December, abstained.

Corns said in voting against the expressway earlier this year, he and his fellow council members were representing their constituents.

"I think it will just kill the property values," Corns said. "If you had put your life's savings in a house and someone put a toll road 150 feet away, what would you do?"

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill.

In contrast to open microphone public hearings held previously on the Illiana Expressway at the same location, supporters of the road were almost impossible to find Tuesday night.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who is also a member of the 52-member NIRPC board, said he has not decided how he will vote. He said the expressway may be more than 25 miles away from Hammond and other northern cities, but his constituents still have concerns.

"There are worries that we will be diverting business away from our business districts," McDermott said at Tuesday night's meeting. "Whether we like it or not right now a lot of that traffic stops in Hammond and buys dinner there."

There also are concerns building the Illiana Expressway would continue to draw population away from northern cities and to the southern part of the county, exacerbating problems with sprawl, McDermott said.

When the NIRPC board makes its decision in December, it may do so with members' votes "weighted" by the population of their communities. If it does, McDermott would have the largest single vote because his community is the most populous.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Politicos Blast Illiana

Full story originally published here.

State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, and Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, on Thursday took a strong stand against the planned Illiana Expressway, saying it will hurt both south county and north county residents.

"The state has made their statement," Niemeyer said. "They have partnered with Illinois and they think it's a great project. But the best people to make this decision are the local people."

Strong argued for focusing the region's efforts on projects already underway, such as the Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion and revitalizing communities along the lakeshore.

"Let's fix what we have before we make new," he said.

As the two stood in the lobby of the county administration building Thursday afternoon, they were in effect kicking off what figures to be an intense lobbying campaign directed at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

On Dec. 12, the 52-member NIRPC board will vote on including the Illiana Expressway in its long- and short-range transportation plans. The expressway must win an affirmative vote of the commission to gain federal approval.

Both Niemeyer and Strong made it clear they see NIRPC as the body best able to make a last stand against the 47-mile toll road. It would stretch from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill.

However when asked, both said they had not lobbied NIRPC board members directly on the issue. Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, is the Lake County Council representative on the NIRPC board. State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, is the General Assembly representative.

Niemeyer and Strong also said they had hoped to speak out at a Tuesday night public comment meeting hosted by NIRPC at Lowell Middle School, but were disappointed to find it was not an open-microphone type hearing. Instead, people were asked to write their comments on cards that were handed out.

Niemeyer said there needs to be a fuller exchange of views before NIRPC votes. He also noted it was a big decision for him to speak out seeing as Gov. Mike Pence strongly supports the expressway.

"Gov. Pence is a fellow Republican and I agree with him on his policies," Niemeyer said. "But I disagree with him wholeheartedly on this."

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Are Politicians Trying to Sneak in Rail Line Behind Illiana?

Full story originally published here.

Do we know everything about the Illiana expressway?

I recently read a story in my September issue of Trains magazine about the Illiana Expressway being planned for the southern suburbs.

I did not know that a major rail line is included in the right of way for the expressway.

The article details at least a two-track line with space for expansion that would create a 90-mile industrial park along this route. Planners are projecting 50 to 100 trains a day on this line.

I am all for alleviating congestion on the region rail lines, but are our politicians again trying to sneak in development that the current landowners in this area may not know about?

- Joe Tragesser, Hammond

EDITORIAL: Be Careful With What You Wish For With Illiana

Full story here.

Per Trains magazine, a professional railroad industry publication, also proposed for the Illiana corridor in Indiana is a new two-track (or more) Illiana Belt Railway, extending from Wellsboro, Ind., as well as Coal City and Kankakee in Illinois, all converging on Peotone, where a huge freight complex will be built, to include a freight airport with some passenger service initially.

The Illiana tollway and the railway will funnel interstate commerce into Peotone, along with thousands of jobs, with some most likely taken from Indiana. Financing will be foreign and private investment.

Perhaps we should be careful what we wish for with the Illiana.

- Allen Hoppel, Highland

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: INDIANA SHOULD SUPPORT INDIANA PROJECTS, NOT ILLIANA

Full story here.

The Illiana Expressway will not help Indiana. Valuable land and water will be decimated or compromised. Trucks will refuse to pay tolls to use the road. Only a low percentage of traffic on the Indiana Toll Road or I-90 is truck usage.

At one time, Indiana had the largest migratory bird passage in North America because of the wetlands around the Kankakee River. To gain farm acreage, Indiana foolishly straightened the Kankakee and destroyed habitat of wildlife and fauna. If Indiana supports the Illiana, more wetlands will be lost.

Indiana needs to protect Indiana's resources.

As Executive Editor William Nangle mentioned in an earlier column, the north-south highways in Northwest Indiana need to be improved. Ask any local truck driver about the bottlenecks and backups.

Indiana should support Indiana projects, not the Illiana which is a benefit to Illinois residents and a future Illinois airport.

- Louise Karwowski, Portage

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Lessons to Be Learned from Texas Experiment with Illiana

Full story here.

Lake County leaders last May agreed, after years of discussion, to extend Route 53 north as a tollway and are now trying to find a way to bridge a $2 billion gap to fund the project, according to the Daily Herald.
Tolls will only cover a small part of the $2.5 billion project and everything from adding more tolls to the Tri-State Tollway to creating tolls on a current portion of Route 53 to "levying project-specific gas or sales taxes in Lake County," has been discussed, according to the Daily Herald.

The proposal calls for a four-lane tollway to run north from Lake Cook Road to just south of Route 120 with a speed limit of 45 mph, according to the Illinois Tollway website.

A Route 120 bypass would be added as part of the proposed project and would consist of four lanes from east of Wilson Road to east of Route 45. The bypass would have four lanes and the speed limit would be 45 mph, according to the Illinois Tollway.

The project also calls for upgrades to the western end of Illinois Route 120 and would include four lanes from Route 12 to the western portion of the Route 120 bypass. Upgrades would also be made to the eastern end of Route 120 with four lanes of traffic from the Route 120 Bypass to Interstate 94.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Follow the Money on Illiana

Story originally published here.

On Oct. 17, the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, which makes decisions regarding regional devleopment projects in norheast Illinois, approved adding the Illiana Expressway to its list of projects eligible for federal funding.

That vote overrode an advisory vote of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning board, which opposes the Illiana based on a staff report that says the financial projections the state of Illinois has made, and the economic impact it has predicted, are wrong.

The difference between the two bodies (beyond the obvious difference that the MPO has actual power) is in their make-up. The CMAP board is more heavily weighted toward the city and Cook County; the MPO Policy Committee includes more suburban representatives, and a number of members from state agencies.

There was very much an “our turn” attitude to it, in the southern suburbs. One Cook County mayor called the Illiana a “highway to nowhere land,” “drawing jeers from Will County officials,” the Post-Tribune reported. On the one hand, there’s the sense that the developed area — the “somwhere” — should be taken care of and undeveloped land should stay that way. On the other hand, there’s the idea that more sparsly populated areas need infrastructure development to keep growing, and there’s no middle ground between growth and decline.

It seems that some of the larger transportation issues, mainly traffic relief on other expressways, including the Borman, has largely become a side issue, at least in Illinois.

And the clincher for state officials may be a relatively short-term issue: It will take a lot of people a long time to build a highway between Interstates 55 and 65. At the end of the day it’s very difficult for politicians to say “no” to that.

At the end of the day, studies analyzing finances and vehicle flows are easily steam-rolled by political interests. After the CMAP board voted not to support the Illiana, Bolingbrook Mayor Roger C. Claar said he wasn’t surprised. “They want their money spent in Chicago,” Claar said. “I understand that. It’s about money.”

The same dynamic played out, but with the opposite outcome, when the MPO committee made its decision.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

It Takes Two: Indiana Commission Next Up for Illiana Approval

Story Originally Published Here.

The Illiana Expressway got a green light from Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee last week in an 11-8 vote.

The next potential bump in the road for the $1.3 billion project comes in early December, when Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission has a vote.

The expressway, intended to be a toll road, would link Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. to Interstate 65 near Lowell. The plan is to establish a public-private partnership to build and operate the tollway, with toll revenue paying off the debt.

Both states are looking to start accepting requests from businesses looking to operate and build the tollway.

“We’re looking to release a request for qualification,” said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesperson Jim Pinkerton. “Companies will submit why they think they’re up for the job.”

Final bids to work on the Illiana won’t go out until after it’s been approved by the Federal Highway Administration. Illinois Department of Transportation spokesperson Jae Miller believes the project will receive federal approval early next year.

Governors from both states have voiced support for the new tollway, citing economic development and job creation.

A no-vote from either planning organization wouldn’t stop the project in its tracks, said Pinkerton.

“If it turns out that there’s a vote against,” Pinkerton said, “we’d go back and try to address any specific concerns.”

The idea that NIRPC’s vote could be the last attempt to stop the large project is misleading, said NIRPC executive director Ty Warner.

“It would be accurate to say that we’re the last step regarding a public body’s approval,” said Warner. “But there are other steps that have to be completed before it moves forward.”

Warner added that most of all, the project needs to be funded.

“This is a different kind of project with the public-private partnership,” Warner said. “And the funding hasn’t yet been figured out. So even if NIRPC approves it, that doesn’t mean it’s really over.”

Both INDOT and its Illinois counterpart are completing the Tier 2 study, looking at the environmental impacts to a 400 foot corridor of the highway path.

The FHWA also has to issue its approval before construction can begin, and it can approve the project only if both CMAP and NIRPC include the Illiana in their long-range plans.

The project also faces a pending lawsuit from three conservation groups: Openlands, Sierra Club and the Midewin Heritage Association.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Vote a "Victory" for Some,"Trainwreck" for Others

Story originally published here.

A key decision Thursday from a Chicago regional planning committee to approve the Illiana Expressway drew applause from a slew of elected officials and other supporters, but critics maintain that the proposed 47-mile tollway is a "train wreck" for public transportation and the environment.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Committee, which under federal law has to approve significant transportation projects, voted 11-8 to add the $1.3 billion Illiana Corridor, connecting I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana, to the list of priorities in the Go To 2040 Plan.

Including the project in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's (CMAP) Go To 2040 comprehensive regional plan makes it eligible for federal funding. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) can also start to obtain bids from a private team to finance and build the Illiana Corridor project. The bidding process for the public-private partnership endeavor, the first of its kind in Illinois, would likely open up in November, said Illinois Transportation Secretary Anne Schneider, who also chairs the MPO Policy Committee.

The policy committee, comprised of local transit agency officials and county board chairmen in northeast Illinois, also gave IDOT the go-ahead to use more than $80 million for additional engineering and land acquisition-related costs. The Chicago Tribune reported that the state transportation department has already shelled out about $40 million so far during the project's planning process.

The tollway, to be funded by state transportation dollars and tolls, would serve mainly as a trucking corridor in the bi-state region and would reportedly provide local and regional congestion relief, according to studies from the Illinois and Indiana transportation departments.

Gov. Pat Quinn touted the planning committee's vote as a big economic win for the Southland region and the state.

“Today marks a major victory for economic development and jobs in the Southland, which will strengthen Illinois’ economy and pave the way for future growth,” Quinn said in a statement. “I applaud the members of the MPO Policy Committee for making the Illiana a priority. This regional highway will not only serve the largest and fastest growing areas in Illinois, it will have a long-term economic impact of more than $4 billion in the region.”

According to the governor's office, the project is expected to create more than 9,000 construction jobs and 28,000 long-term jobs.

But not all transportation analysts have given the Illiana Expressway their blessing.

Last week, CMAP's board voted against including the Illiana Corridor in the Go To 2040 plan, saying the proposed project is a considerable financial risk to the state. Among other concerns, CMAP's analysis found that the project will likely require significantly more in public finances, from $440 million to potentially over $1 billion. This type of public subsidy may lead to prioritizing Illiana's implementation at the expense of existing projects in the comprehensive regional plan, according to CMAP.

State transportation officials and others, however, have said that the project's construction would not move forward if private investors find it to be fiscally impractical.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL,2), a strong supporter of the project, wrote in a Chicago Tribune editorial on Thursday that CMAP's decision to oppose the Illiana Corridor was "rooted in regional bias rather than sound strategic planning" and "belies the realities of the future transportation needs of the Chicagoland area."

During remarks at Thursday's committee meeting, Kelly also noted that, “Chicago’s Southland is America’s ground zero for transportation innovation."

“There’s been a lot of debate about the Illiana over the past year, some of it enlightening and constructive and some of it, quite frankly, disrespectful and utterly unproductive. At its core, the opposition to the Illiana is based on a longstanding bias against the Southland when it comes to infrastructure investment,” Kelly said. “But the Southland is just as worthy of development, just as deserving of improved infrastructure as any other area of the region. We have the people and the businesses to not only support the Illiana, but who make the roadway a vital conduit to economic development in the area.

She also took to task opponents who say the bi-state toll road is not economically viable.

“Regional business leaders, labor leaders, political leaders of both parties from all levels of government – all of us have united in support of the Illiana. It’s a rare solidarity fostered by the great potential for regional growth that the Illiana represents," she said. “We need this road. We believe in this road. We have devised an innovative public private partnership to pay for this road."

In addition to Kelly, U.S. Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL,11) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL,16) as well as U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) have thrown their support behind the expressway.

"The Illiana is a much needed investment to provide relief to the communities that are bearing the brunt of freight traffic in the region, support ongoing economic development and create jobs," Foster said in a statement. “I am also pleased that this project is moving forward as a public-private partnership. As a businessman I believe that a well-executed public-private partnership is a useful tool to support truly essential and economically viable projects."

But Ron Burke, executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, maintains that private funding will not cover the expressway's full costs, leaving taxpayers with the tab. As a result, the Illiana project would suck up more dollars that otherwise could be used for a laundry list of Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Metra improvements, as well as new efforts like a Red Line extension to 135th Street, a West Loop Transit Center and modernization of Union Station, to name a few.

Other critics also argue that the bi-state toll road does not align with the goals of the region’s long-term transportation plan.

As part of the final Go To 2040 Plan, adopted in 2010, there was a commitment to targeting limited public dollars on transportation projects centered around existing communities, explained Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter.

That strategy is a better deal for the taxpayer than the Illiana project, Darin said, because it helps more people get around the region. It is also better for air quality when people travel shorter distances and have a variety of transportation options other than their car, he noted.

"This [Illiana] decision is a blow to years of effort by thousands of people in the region to choose a smarter, better way to grow, and now I think that the region needs to recommit to that vision," Darin told Progress Illinois. "This was a political override of a plan that everyone agreed to that was years in the making, and [it] was potentially undone yesterday by the votes of 11 people."

Burke specifically slammed the Metra and Pace representatives for voting in favor of the project at Thursday's meeting. If the two agencies voted 'no', the proposal would have failed, he said.

“Our region’s transit system is undermined by transit agency board members whose main allegiance is to the people who appoint them and not to creating better transit,” Burke said in a statement. “Yesterday’s vote is another example of that fact. The Illiana Expressway is a train wreck for transit, and Metra and Pace voted for it anyway.”

Burke went on to say that the vote, in his opinion, didn't help to clean up Metra's scandal-plagued public image and "other missteps that demonstrate political influence on transit boards."

“Calls for reform are already echoing across the region to eliminate political influence on transit boards and prevent future scandals,” he stressed. “Metra and Pace had a chance yesterday to restore public’s trust in transit leadership. Instead their votes ought to make those calls louder.”

Committee representatives from the CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority voted against the Illiana.

Environmentalists, as well as a number of residents in the area, are also up in arms about the proposed expressway, saying it would pollute and destroy wetlands and farms, among other detrimental impacts.

"There are real local concerns about what paving over the rural area would do locally," Darin said. "It would bring a steady stream of truck traffic right through the heart of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie."

Additionally, Darin said the Illiana road itself and development that comes with it would pave over the north half of the Kankakee River watershed, which provides drinking water for the city of Kankakee and parts of Will County. He said the water source is currently much cleaner than others in the Chicago region.

"We'd like to keep it that way," he stressed.

A public hearing on the toll road's proposed location is scheduled for later this year, according to the governor's office. The public will also have the opportunity to provide input on the project during the state and federal agency and public-private partnership approval process. Overall, the planning process is expected to wrap up in early 2014.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

BREAKING: MPO Approves Illiana, Crosses Major Hurdle

Story originally published.

In a major victory for Gov. Pat Quinn, a key regional planning committee has approved his controversial proposal for a new $1.3 billion toll road that would serve primarily as a trucking corridor linking interstates in Illinois and Indiana.

The Illiana Corridor got the green light Thursday from the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee, which by federal law must sign off on major transportation projects.

Quinn hailed the vote as a major victory for economic development and jobs that he said will strengthen the state's economy.

"I applaud the members (of the planning committee) for making the Illiana a priority," Quinn said. "This regional highway will not only serve the largest- and fastest-growing areas in Illinois, it will have a long-term economic impact of more than $4 billion in the region."

Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider also applauded the outcome but said much work remains over the next year to complete the Illiana's planning and start soliciting bids from private investors who would partner with the state.

"This was just one step in the process, but it was a very big step," Schneider said.

The toll road through Will County would connect Interstate 55 at Wilmington, I-57 near Peotone and I-65 near Lowell, Ind. Supporters said it would create 9,000 short-term jobs and generate thousands more over the next three decades.

In a separate vote, the Policy Committee also gave IDOT the authority to spend more than $80 million for more engineering and land acquisition. IDOT has already spent about $40 million in planning work on the project.

The 19-member committee is made up of county board chairmen and transportation agency representatives from the seven-county area. It approved the project by an 11-to-8 vote.

Voting in favor of the Illiana were the county chairmen or their representatives from Will, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Lake counties, along with officials from the Illinois Tollway, Metra and Pace.

Opponents included representatives from Cook and McHenry counties, the city of Chicago and the CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority.

Opponents made a last-ditch stand against the project.

Virginia Gates-Hamann, who said her family has farmed the Peotone area for generations, said the Illiana will destroy thousands of acres of farmland and the rural quality of life.

"If IDOT paves over this land, it will have (the) same effect as Chernobyl ... poisoning the land," she said.

The committee vote came after nearly three hours of arguments for and against the toll road.

In addition to committee members, some 38 others addressed the panel, including U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, state legislators, local officials, farmers, clergy and representatives of various advocacy groups.

The argument that appeared to carry the day was that IDOT should develop the Illiana as a public-private partnership in which private investors would build and operate the toll road.

Supporters emphasized there is little or no state or federal money available for such a project, unlike previous decades when the federal government poured millions into helping build the region's expressways.

The vote was clearly a disappointment for the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the organization created by the legislature to oversee land use and transportation planning for Northeastern Illinois.

In a statement, CMAP's Chairman Gerald Bennett said the "process has been difficult for all concerned and political tensions have strained the regional coalition" that was built when the agency was formed in 2005.

In order for the Illiana to go forward, it needed to be included in CMAP's long-range regional plan, which was approved with the consensus of leaders from the seven-county area three years ago. The vote Thursday was to amend the plan, called GO TO 2040, by including the Illiana on its list of projects.

The Illiana could pose a significant financial risk to the financially struggling state, critics said.

CMAP's analysis showed the Illiana would likely need anywhere from $440 million to $1.1 billion in public funding, and that this money would come at the expense of other projects.

Schneider argued that the project needed to go forward as the state's first public-private partnership, but said if suitable investors are not found, the state will not build the Illiana.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Too Much Risk for Taxpayers With Illiana

Story originally published here.

Like it or not, the task of setting spending priorities is about picking winners and losers. So let's talk about who wins, and who loses, if the Illiana Expressway speeds forward.

Will County would get a trucking corridor to service its growing intermodal network. Drivers on crowded I-80 would get some relief, assuming enough of them are willing to drive several miles out of their way and pay hefty tolls to take the Illiana instead. Gov. Pat Quinn would score major points with Southland voters.

And Illinois taxpayers could be stuck paying up to $1.1 billion to subsidize a toll road that moves fewer vehicles per day than Chicago's Irving Park Road.

It's a lopsided ledger, and it ought to earn the Illiana a resounding "no" vote Thursday, when the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee decides whether to add the project to its short list of regional transportation priorities.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which normally works in tandem with the policy committee, voted 10-4 last week not to amend its strategic plan, known as GO TO 2040, to include the Illiana. A CMAP staff analysis slammed the proposal, saying it was "broadly incompatible" with the regional consensus behind that blueprint.

GO TO 2040 promotes investment in roads and other infrastructure close to existing development, rather than spending scarce public dollars keeping up with poorly organized sprawl. The plan was approved three years ago by both the CMAP and MPO boards. But the MPO could decide to chuck it out the window on Thursday.

Why would the boards come down on opposite sides of this vote? The CMAP board members represent the region's seven counties and the city of Chicago. Its members were subjected to "high pressure" from Quinn and the Illinois Department of Transportation before last week's vote, according to CMAP chairman Gerald Bennett. The policy board also includes representatives from transit agencies, railroads and private transportation companies as well as the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and IDOT — a lineup even more vulnerable to political arm-twisting.

A joint project of IDOT and its Indiana counterpart, the 47-mile Illiana would connect I-55 in southern Will County to I-65 in southern Lake County, Ind. It would be built in partnership with a private developer.

IDOT says the Illiana would pay for itself by 2053, but it can't provide the numbers to back that up because it needs to protect negotiations with potential private partners. So the CMAP staff worked up some hypotheticals, none of which support IDOT's rosy outlook.

Under the staff's most optimistic scenario — low interest rates, healthy toll revenues, on-target construction and maintenance costs — taxpayers would have to contribute $440 million over 35 years. Under the pessimistic scenario, the subsidy would be $1.1 billion.

CMAP staff says Quinn and IDOT have oversold the project: It would have a "negligible" effect on overall traffic congestion. It won't deliver the promised economic boost. And whatever jobs are created will come at the expense of the Chicago region. Many of them will end up across the state line. So let's add Indiana to the "winners" column.

And let's talk some more about losers. Money spent on one project is money that's not available for others. If taxpayers have to prop up a new toll road in southern Will County, they'll have less to spend on highways in Lake or Kendall counties. And it should be unthinkable for representatives of the mass transit agencies — Metra, Pace, the Regional Transportation Authority — to vote "yes" on the Illiana. How does that serve their riders? We hope they're prepared to answer that question, again and again, if they vote "yes" on Thursday.

The projects on the GO TO 2040 list are supposed to address the region's most urgent transportation needs. The Illiana Expressway doesn't belong on that list.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Governor Quinn Affirms Support for Illiana

Story originally published here.

TINLEY PARK | Gov. Pat Quinn declared himself an ally of Chicago's south suburbs Monday, offering municipalities road repair funds while also reiterating his support for the Illiana Expressway project.

Quinn appeared before the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce to tout the expressway to connect Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington.

Last week, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning rejected including the Illiana in its long-term plan. A more critical vote by CMAP's Metropolitan Planning Organization arm is set Thursday.

"Our intention is to get a 'yes' vote," Quinn said. "We have to make this happen."

Some Chicago officials, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are concerned money spent toward Illiana construction would come from funds that otherwise could be spent on maintenance of Chicago-area roads.

Quinn said he thinks Emanuel is wrong about the project.

The governor said Illinois ought to be supporting each other on projects to benefit the state.

"Chicago benefits when we all work together," he said.

Quinn cited the potential for an Illiana Expressway to provide access to a proposed Peotone airport, saying the project made significant progress in recent months with the acquisition of many plots of land in the area between Peotone, Monee and Beecher.

"This is not a pie in the sky idea," Quinn said. "This is important."

Quinn has long been a supporter of the Illiana and third airport projects, saying they would help the south suburbs achieve their full potential.

"Some may think 'nowhereland' when they see the south suburbs, but I'm a true believer in the south and the southland," Quinn said.

To that end, Quinn announced $3.4 million in capital investment funds to be used by communities for local projects.

Money was distributed to communities ranging from $169,673 to Calumet City, $142,336 to Chicago Heights and $123,037 to Lansing down to $18,109 for Burnham, $15,009 for Ford Heights and $11,213 for Thornton.

Other municipalities receiving funds include Dolton ($111,233), Flossmoor ($40,391), Glenwood ($39,084), Harvey ($130,280), Homewood ($84,869), Lynwood ($39,801), Riverdale ($65,379), Sauk Village ($45,212), South Chicago Heights ($17,240), South Holland ($96,177) and Steger ($42,033).

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Trucking Companies Should Pay for Illiana

The Illiana Expressway (“Showdown over the Illiana” Editorial, Oct. 6) should get no federal or state funding.

Instead, let the trucking companies that would benefit from it invest their own money in a corporation set up to buy the land, build the road and operate it as a tollway.

If they don’t think the expressway would get enough traffic for the tolls to repay their investment, then the taxpayers shouldn’t pay for it either. Let it die.

— George W. Price, Chicago

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Too Many Unanswered Questions with Illiana

Full story originally published here.

Despite the support of key figures like Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, opposition is growing to the proposed Illiana Expressway connecting Illinois and Indiana.

Which is good, because there are just too many unanswered questions about the project at this point, particularly around whether it will place yet another crushing debt burden around the necks of Illinois taxpayers.

The 50-mile expressway project, slated to join Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 65 in Indiana, is being touted by Quinn, Kirk, Indiana Governor Mike Pence and others as a net benefit for the area’s transportation needs. They point to construction jobs being created, the potential for reduced bottlenecks along nearby I-80, and likely future economic growth in the communities alongside the route.

However, a coalition of voices is coming together to oppose the project, including environmental groups, the Chicago Tribune editorial board and concerned citizens likely to be effected by the project. Further, the proposal was dealt a blow Friday when the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) declined to include it in it’s list of transportation priorities. Under state law, such inclusion is required before federal funds are available.

Part of the problem is the states’ decision to use a public-private partnership, or PPP, to fund the project. PPPs are seen in many quarters as innovative ways to finance public works projects by having private companies share some or all of the burden of initial project costs in return for payments down the road. Indiana has used them in the past, but for Illinois the Illiana project would be a first.

In fact, Sen. Kirk explicitly pointed to the PPP as a key reason he supports the project. In a letter Tuesday to CMAP, Kirk and Indiana Senator Dan Coats said “With no additional revenues expected in the near future [for capital projects], we should look to innovative financing to address a piece of our funding needs.”

There’s just three problems: One, CMAP and others have said the Illiana might not reduce traffic congestion while destroying critical environmental areas and fail to supply projected economic benefits. Two, no one has said yet exactly how the PPP for Illiana will work. And three, no one has said who, exactly, will pick up the tab for millions in cost overruns the project could incur.

In it’s report, CMAP noted that “The proposed facility's estimated cost and potential financing structure expose the state of Illinois to extensive financial risk,” and that information provided to justify the project's financial viability has been incomplete and largely anecdotal.

CMAP also noted that details about the PPP were sketchy, and that under some funding scenarios the project could require a public subsidy of between $440 million and $1.1 billion. Without knowing how the PPP will work, it’s difficult to understand who exactly those cost overruns would be paid to.

No one in Illinois needs to be told the state already doesn't have a dime to spare for critical needs like paying its past due bills, funding critical human service programs, or finding a solution to it’s worst-in-the-nation pension crisis.

As a result, it’s difficult to understand politicians lining up for a project that is unproven at best and disastrous at worst. Or for anyone to support a plan whose critical funding details are sketchy at best.
Unless we ask ourselves one simple question: Who, exactly, is this project designed to benefit?

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

BREAKING: CMAP Committee Votes to Recommend Inclusion of Illiana in Transportation Plan

Full story originally published here.

A Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning committee on Friday voted 10-7 to recommend including the Illiana Expressway in its long-range transportation plan, a key step in moving the project forward.

The vote could be a harbinger of others to come in the next two weeks at the Willis Tower meeting rooms of the agency, with CMAP's approval critical to getting eventual federal approval for the Illiana Expressway.

Those votes will culminate in a vote of CMAP's Metropolitan Planning Organization on Oct. 17. That organization must vote to include the Illiana Expressway in the agency's Go To 2040 long range transportation plan or the 47-mile expressway is a no-go in Illinois.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, an organization similar to CMAP, will take votes on including the Illiana Expressway in its own 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan in December.

Friday's vote came despite a recommendation by CMAP's own staff not to include the Illiana Expressway in the Go To 2040 plan.

Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams, who serves as an alternate on the transportation committee, said in comments before Friday's meeting that his community supports building the Illiana Expressway.

“Bringing more choices and opportunity to other parts of the state will not hurt Chicago,” Williams said.

But that wasn't everyone's opinion on Friday.

A CMAP report highly critical of the Illiana Expressway was summarized by CMAP Deputy Chief of Staff Matt Maloney before the agency's transportation committee began discussion.

One of the CMAP staff's central arguments against the road is that even with private investment there will be a large funding gap of anywhere from $440 million to $1.1 billion that will have to be paid for by the states, Maloney said.

The report also projects the road would only marginally improve regional mobility and largely bypass established communities, even in Will County, Maloney said.

“If Go To 2040 provides a blueprint for our future then the Illiana is out of step with our plan,” said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation countered those arguments in a short presentation by Pete Harmet.

The project would in fact pay for itself over 35 years with tolls collected according to IDOT's projections, Harmet said. It would also be one of the largest contributors to gross regional product of any major project currently on the shelf or underway in Illinois, Harmet said.

“It seems like CMAP staff has moved the goalposts back on us,” Harmet said. “And sometimes they've moved them from side to side.”

Most of the public comments made after those presentations were in support of including the Illiana Expressway in the Go To 2040 plan and getting it built.

The Illiana Expressway has already been designated a project of both regional and national significance, said John Greuling, CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development.

“It's interesting this morning that I have not heard any mention of our sister state,” Greuling said. “And I'm disappointed by that for what is supposed to be a regional project.”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn have endorsed the road, most recently at a tri-state regional summit last week at the Federal Reserve in Chicago.

The Illiana Expressway would be a 47-mile toll road running from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. It would have two lanes in each direction.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana a "Boondoggle"

What’s being forgotten regarding the proposed Illiana Expressway is common sense. For example, the notion that a lot of truckers would divert from the free Interstate 80 to use a new toll road is nonsense.

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s claim that this road would cost half as much per mile to build as other similar highways in the country is equally ridiculous. This whole project a huge boondoggle, pure pork-barrel spending.

As for the private/public partnership to build the tollway, private investors put their money into projects from which they can reasonably expect good returns. Every set of outside experts that has looked at the Illiana Expressway plan has concluded that it would cost far more than what’s being quoted and would not attract huge usage even if it were a freeway.

Do we really think that private investors would not hire their own expert analysts and come to the same obvious conclusions?

The only way that private investors will be persuaded to put their money into this turkey is with government guarantees of the bonds. When the project’s actual numbers turn out far different from the current claims, those guarantees will be called upon and taxpayer dollars will be needed to complete the Illiana Expressway.

Paul Botts

Chicago

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: IDOT Should Focus on STAR Line, Not Illiana

I hope our leaders do not spend any more our scarce transportation funds on the Illiana Expressway and the South Suburban Airport. Let them take no more land for these projects.

If jobs are the main objective, the STAR Line (Suburban Transit Access Route) would be a much cheaper and more reliable long-term benefit than the airport or a tollway for the people of the south suburbs.

The STAR Line would use the former EJ&E Railroad tracks that run from Indiana to Waukegan as a commuter rail line to serve about 100 suburbs.

It would greatly expand our public transportation options without the painful use of eminent domain to take working farms away from long-time owners. Commuters from the south suburbs could connect to jobs in high employment areas west and north of Chicago.

There is still time to reconsider. Neither the airport near Peotone or the Illiana Expressway have all the required permits. The five-year period of review ends on Dec. 24, but it can be extended in the public interest. At the least, the citizens of the south suburbs deserve a referendum on this issue.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board’s approval in December 2008 of Canadian National Railway’s takeover of the EJ&E for freight operations came with certain conditions, one of which was that CN “work with Metra to explore all options for service on the proposed STAR Line, including use of the EJ&E rail line.”

One board member expressed fear that its decision could “inhibit future, much-needed commuter rail options, including the proposed STAR Line services.” If a high rate of employment and a healthy environment are the goals of our state transportation department, let’s redirect our money for the STAR Line.

Katie Felt Armstrong

Park Forest

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Governors of Indiana, Illinois Put Stamp of Approval on Illiana Plan

Full story originally published here.

The Illiana Expressway was given an endorsement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Friday at a three-state regional summit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

“Whether it's the Illiana or any mode of transportation, you have to go where the demand is,” Quinn said.

“You have to remember the original Tollway was called the Tri-State Tollway,” he went on to say to the 220 people in attendance. “We have to have the attitude we are all in this together.”

At a panel discussion later, Pence was just as emphatic in his endorsement.

“Infrastructure is one of the natural areas where you have to think regionally, because roads don't stop at state borders,” Pence said.

"We look forward to the state of Illinois doing its part," Pence said. "But the state of Indiana wants to make it clear we want this project to go forward."

The two governor's thumbs-up of the Illiana Expressway comes in the face of mounting opposition to the proposed bi-state road in Chicago, where a vote will take place in two weeks.

The road also has been controversial in Northwest Indiana, where those living in its path show up regularly at public hearings and other forums to protest.

Former CenterPoint Properties CEO Michael Mullen asked Quinn during the morning panel about the Illiana Expressway, pointing out it would help get trucks off local roads from intermodal facilities like the one his company developed a decade ago at the former arsenal in Joliet.

“There are naysayers that don't quite get get it,” Mullen said of the Illiana Expressway. “But I welcome anyone to drive down there and see the amount of truck traffic moving out of there.”

The Illiana Expressway would connect Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill.

Others on Quinn's panel gave the Illiana Expressway an OK at Mullen's request. Those giving their nod to the road were Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Rosemarie Andolino, Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur, BSNF Railway Vice President Vann Cunningham and trucking company Celadon CEO Paul Will.

The five served on the transportation and logistics panel at the Federal Reserve-convened Tri-State Summit on Regional Competitiveness. Other sponsors were the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Alliance for Regional Development.

The summit was convened to follow up on a study done by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which emphasized the need for the Milwaukee-Chicago-Gary area to develop their economies as one.

One of the last panels of the day included officials from three Northwest Indiana companies talking about how green technologies can drive the Midwest's economic resurgence.

NIPSCO CEO Jim Stanley, who is Indiana chairman for the Alliance for Regional Development, moderated the panel and drew out the success stories of his panelists.

Fair Oaks Farms CEO Gary Corbett started out talking cows but ended up talking manure – and lots of it.

The farm off I-65 takes the manure from the 37,000 cows it milks and converts it into several products. The chief is methane gas to power the farm and the farm's fleet of 60 milk tankers, believed to be the largest commercial CNG fleet in the nation.

The farm is also developing processes to turn the manure into stable fertilizer products and to fuel algae farming.

ArcelorMittal Automotive Product Applications Director Blake Zuidema spoke about projects like a new boiler at the Indiana Harbor steel mill that uses waste blast furnace gas to produce electricity.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Put the Brakes on Illiana

Full story originally published here.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is playing defense over the proposed Illiana Expressway, an east-west toll road that would connect I-55 in southern Will County to I-65 in southern Lake County, Ind.

With two potential make-or-break votes coming up next month, critics have cranked up the volume. The nonprofit Metropolitan Planning Council says the project — promoted by Gov. Pat Quinn as an employment and development engine — won't generate the jobs or the economic boost promised and will do little to relieve traffic congestion throughout the region.

Since 2006, IDOT has been working with its Indiana counterpart, INDOT, to draft a plan for the expressway. Based on distance, Illinois' share of the projected $1.25 billion cost would be $950 million.

IDOT says the expressway, to be built in partnership with a private developer, would pay for itself by 2023. But the MPC is skeptical of the state's traffic projections and worries about the risk to taxpayers if toll revenues come up short.

The group has urged the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning not to add the Illiana to its comprehensive plan, called GO TO 2040. CMAP is charged with prioritizing regional transportation projects that compete for limited federal money. If the Illiana doesn't make the list, it's all but dead.

CMAP's own staff analysis is hardly encouraging. It challenges IDOT's numbers, suggesting the costs are underestimated and the transportation benefits overstated. That analysis isn't meant to be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down — an official staff recommendation is expected this week — but the writing is on the wall. This project isn't consistent with CMAP's vision for the region.

A monthlong public comment period ended with 169 weighing in in favor and 796 against, plus thousands of signatures on two petitions opposing the project. Three environmental groups have sued to block the project.

The 47-mile toll road is envisioned mainly as a trucking corridor, serving the Southland's growing intermodal freight system. It's meant to relieve congestion on I-80 and on local roads that are crowded with trucks seeking to avoid that traffic. It would pass just south of the planned south suburban airport near Peotone.

For local businesses and governments, the need for the Illiana is a no-brainer. Will County was among the nation's fastest growing counties from 2000 to 2008, as the region's population continued its outward migration from Chicago to the inner suburbs to the exurbs.

But the recession slowed that trend. And the debate over the Illiana is largely about whether regional planners should assume that growth will resume and build the infrastructure to support it — or try to arrest the pattern in favor of more controlled development.

The GO TO 2040 blueprint encourages growth centered around the existing urban core and close to public transportation. Instead of reacting to population trends, the plan emphasizes "investment in existing communities, maintenance and modernization of our current transportation and infrastructure assets and targeted expansion."

The forecasts underlying IDOT's plan for the Illiana "assume a substantially different outcome for the region, placing more of the region's growth in outlying, undeveloped areas," the CMAP staff analysis says.

The MPC makes a strong case that IDOT is getting ahead of itself. A toll road that cuts through a sparsely populated area is not automatically a magnet for the trucks now crowding I-80.

Even under IDOT's traffic projections, MPC points out that the Illiana would move fewer vehicles per day (26,300) than Irving Park Road (35,400). Sure, it's apples and oranges. But that's not a very big number, especially since we're talking about 47 miles and $1.25 billion.

For Quinn, road construction is less about moving vehicles from Point A to Point B than about creating jobs (and cutting ribbons). But whatever jobs are generated by the Illiana will likely come at the expense of Chicago and the Cook County suburbs — and many of them will end up across the state line, in Indiana.

Tell us again — why is this a good idea?

CMAP's role here is to set priorities. The Illiana Expressway doesn't make the cut.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Most Recent Map Updates - Illiana Expressway

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Frmr. Mayor Daley Says 'Yes' to Illiana, 'No' to South Suburban Airport

Story originally published in Northwest Indiana Times.

One south suburban transportation project received a green light from former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley on Wednesday, but he said another will never fly.

The Illiana Expressway, already endorsed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is a necessity at this point, Daley said.

"They really need that," the former mayor said while being interviewed after the One Region annual luncheon Wednesday. "There is a huge intermodal presence there. They need it. They have to get it. Otherwise, you can't have anything moving north or south."

The two state departments of transportation hope to have the Illiana Expressway under construction by 2015. It would run from Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill.

But when it comes to the proposed airport at Peotone, also backed by Gov. Quinn, Daley said it will never fly.

“Nobody wants it,” he said.

As far as the state of Illinois buying the land around Peotone as it is doing now, “They will probably make it a park,” he said.

Many observers think Daley's longtime support of Gary/Chicago International Airport as Chicago's "third airport" is rooted in his opposition to any airport at Peotone.

On the subject of current progress at the Gary airport, Daley said the lightly used airport just southeast of Chicago needs to get its second runway built. That would be in addition to the current $166 million expansion of the main runway.

"In order to get any cargo, they need a second runway," Daley said. "You can't delay cargo, so they need a second runway."

While serving as Chicago mayor, Daley had said Gary could help relieve congestion at O'Hare by handling some of the cargo that flows through the Chicago airport.

As for the current effort to privatize Gary airport management and development, Daley said it may be the only way to build up business there.

"They need to get money," he said. "If they keep waiting for the federal government it will get harder and harder. I think they need private money."

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport or Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

BREAKING: INDOT/IDOT Agree to Plan for Building Illiana

Story originally published in Northwest Indiana Times.

Indiana and Illinois have reached an agreement in principal on how to construct and finance the Illiana Expressway, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Each state's department of transportation plans to issue its own request for qualifications for its portion of the 47-mile toll road this fall as the next step in enticing private investors to help pay for the road, according to INDOT.

Indiana plans to request proposals for financing its portion of the road through what are called availability payments, said INDOT spokesman Wil Wingfield. Indiana currently is using availability payments to back the financing of the $763 million East End Crossing bridge over the Ohio River.

“We look forward to working with our partners at IDOT on this very important project to the entire region,” said Kendra York, public finance director of the state of Indiana.

The Indiana Finance Authority, where York serves as chief executive, could play a key role in raising money to build the Illiana Expressway. For the East End Crossing Bridge, the Indiana Finance Authority issued $641 million of private activity bonds.

In availability payment deals, a private investment group pays the upfront costs for design and construction of road or bridge. In exchange, the state guarantees it will make annual payments to the investment group for making the bridge "available" to the motoring public. For example, in the case of the East End Crossing, Indiana will pay investment group WVB East End Partners about $32.9 million per year for allowing motorists to use the bridge.

Tolls can be used to make availability payments. But if tolls do not cover the full availability payment, then the state must find other funds to make up the shortage.

The Indiana portion of the Illiana Expressway will run about 10 miles from near Lowell to the state line while the Illinois section will be about 37 miles long and end near Wilmington, Ill.

“The Illiana project is a ‘win-win’ for both Illinois and Indiana and will result in a reduced financial burden while creating much needed infrastructure," said Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider. "It will save millions for Indiana and Illinois taxpayers while producing huge economic benefits for both states, and that is good news.”

INDOT's announcement comes two weeks before the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning is scheduled to vote on including the Illiana Expressway in its long-term transportation plan. If the agency votes against that action, it will present a significant roadblock to obtaining federal funds for the road.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Please Call it What it is, the Illiana TOLLway

Editorial originally published here.

In regard to the editorial, “Illiana Expressway must go forward,” please stop misleading readers by referring to this roadway as an expressway. It will be a P3 (Public-Private Partnership) tollway.

P3’s often include compensation provisions requiring the state, or more precisely, the taxpayers, to compensate the private operator if toll revenues are not met. So although it may be true that private investors will pay to build the tollway, the taxpayers will unknowingly be subsidizing it for years to come.

Over the past four years, I’ve attended numerous Illiana meetings and have researched its value and need. The negative impacts (finance-related, ownership-related, environmental-related and study-related) associated with the proposed Illiana far outweigh any positives, especially for Indiana.

I’m sure the Metropolitan Planning Council did their homework. Please educate yourself by attending Illiana-related meetings before parroting INDOT, IDOT and the Illiana Corridor Study Group’s views and statistics.

- Donna Slikas, Lowell

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illinois a Battleground for Transmission Projects

Story originally published in the Morris Daily Herald.

llinois has become the frontline in the battleground of Midwestern energy transmission. But, for many residents, the argument isn’t with wind energy production itself. Instead, the controversy lies with how to get that wind energy from point A to point B.

With the growth of wind energy, Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates reliability issues, and transmission lines are popping up all over the country.

Rock Island Clean Line is just one of those proposed lines. The 500-mile overhead high-voltage direct current line in northern Illinois will transmit wind energy produced at point A, in Iowa and further west, to point B, a conversion station in Grundy County. In addition to Rock Island Clean Line, several other transmission lines are currently in the works or proposed in Illinois.

The Grain Belt Express and the Illinois Rivers Project are two such projects. Owned by the same company as Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express Clean Line is set to travel through several Midwestern states, including Illinois, and stretch more than 750 miles.

The Illinois Rivers Project by Ameren will span 380 miles, 18 Illinois counties and three states. But opposition to the expedited review process that Ameren chose to pursue before the Illinois Commerce Commission for the project is growing at a rapid pace.

It’s easy to see the benefits of renewable energy projects, but the issue with transmission lines is a bit more complicated. Farmers and landowners oppose the transmission lines because they don’t always follow established routes. Instead, they cut through farmland, leaving thousands of acres of farm ground dotted with lines and towers, making farming much more difficult.

In most cases, transmission lines cut through open farmland diagonally, in the shortest possible distance, rather than following the roads, property lines or field lines.

In the case of Rock Island Clean Line, the electricity is ultimately destined for Chicago and markets east of Illinois. In other words, this transmission line is like a one-way interstate highway with no on ramp, and only one off ramp in Illinois.

Rock Island Clean Line also is seeking public utility status from the Illinois Commerce Commission, which would be the first step toward the company receiving eminent domain authority. If landowners in the area want to grant an easement to Rock Island Clean Line, they have that option, but Illinois Farm Bureau opposes granting a private company public utility status for a merchant transmission line, especially when the need for the line has been questioned.

Renewable fuels like biodiesel, ethanol and wind energy are necessary for our continued growth and energy independence. However, these must be considered with care and thought. Companies should work together with farmers and landowners to put a long-term plan in place. A comprehensive approach that minimizes the impact on farmland, rather than a case by case approach, will create the best outcome for everyone.

• Philip Nelson of Seneca is the 14th president of the Illinois Farm Bureau and serves as full-time executive officer. He is president of the companies that make up COUNTRY Financial, Illinois Agricultural Service Company and the IAA Foundation. He also serves on the Coordinating Committee of GROWMARK.

If you think you may be affected by the Ameren Three Rivers Project or Rock Island Clean Line and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Expressway Will Have to Contend With Historic Properties

Story originally published in the Southtown Star.

As the Interstate 355 southern extension was being built about 10 years ago, connecting Bolingbrook to New Lenox, Virginia Ferry watched as several buildings in its 12-mile path were demolished.

There were many old family farmsteads and the glamorous, sprawling 1950s stone ranch of Dr. Ray Kennedy, which some felt should have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places — but instead was cleared to make room for the interchange at Route 6 and Cedar Road in New Lenox.

Now, as lines are drawn on paper and computer screens for yet another highway that would run through Will County — the proposed Illiana Expressway — Ferry, chairman of the Will County Historic Preservation Commission, is working closely with the state to prevent something similar from happening again.

“I know we have to progress. But we have to save as much as we can,” Ferry said. “Unlike what happened with the construction of I-355, people who represent Illinois are coming to us and listening to us and are eager to hear what we have to say.”

The Illiana must comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 — specifically Section 106 — which requires the Federal Highway Administration to consider the impact such a highway would have on historic properties.

The impact is not just from the 2,000-foot-wide concrete road and its interchanges, but the potential visual, noise and vibration impacts one mile north and south of it.

Within the swath of the projected path lie the Beecher Mausoleum, Peotone’s Rathje Mill, the old Route 66, many significant sites in Wilmington and the town of Symerton.

The historical analysis is one of many studies being done along the corridor, all of which will comprise the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.

“They will have to balance all kinds of factors — environmental, engineering, historical. It’s a huge balancing act,” said Curt Paddock, director of the Will County land-use department.

But while the state is willing to listen and weigh all these competing interests, it may be impossible to satisfy them all, he said.

A work in progress

The alignment has not been finalized. But the preferred alignment — dubbed Corridor B3 — which traverses 46.8 miles from Interstate 55 in Wilmington east to Beecher and ties into Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind. — has no buildings along the route that are on the National Register of Historic Places, officials said. The preservation act does not consider local landmarks, only those on the National Register.

Still, there are concerns.

According to the Illiana Corridor website, three National Register properties are within the “Area of Potential Effects” (APE) — alternate Route 66, from Joliet to Wilmington, the Eagle Hotel in Wilmington, and the Rathje Mill.

Seven other sites that may be affected are recommended to be listed on the National Register, including a potential downtown Wilmington Historic District, the Soldiers’ Widows’ Laundry House, also in Wilmington, the John Baskerville farmstead in Florence Township, the Will County Fairgrounds in Peotone, the Beecher Mausoleum, a Peotone farmhouse at 2444 W. Corning Road and the Stauffenberg Farmstead in Manteno Township/Kankakee County.

The Will County Historic Preservation Commission also brought other sites to the state’s attention, preservation manager Eileen Franz said. They also believe the Small Towle House in downtown Wilmington should be listed, which is just outside the Area of Potential Effects, and the Bowen Farmstead, on Widows Road, within the APE.

More sites to consider

In an Aug. 16 letter to the Illinois Department of Transportation, Ferry pointed out that Florence Township also has two potential historic districts — the Midewin Buffer District and the village of Symerton, which, she said, “is an excellent example of an undisturbed hamlet,” and according to the 2010 census has a population of 87.

There are at least five sites along Widows Road and Kankakee River Drive in Wilmington that could comprise the Wilmington historic district, “a highly sensitive area that is rich in cultural history,” but the road will disturb this area and destroy the historic context of these sites, Ferry wrote to the state.

Wilmington was part of the Underground Railroad, the Historic Route 66 and includes a stretch of the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

The Illiana planning group determined that there could be adverse effects to the old Route 66, where two types of interchanges are being considered — a partial cloverleaf at Route 53 and an overpass at Riley Road.

The highway could also obscure the historic view of the Corning Road farmhouse and further compromise its setting, which already has been diminished by new development, it stated.

Otherwise, the group determined that there would be no negative impacts on the other sites.

According to Section 106, any adverse effects must be resolved by either avoiding the site, minimizing the impact or somehow mitigating it.

Franz noted that once a building is moved, it is not eligible for the National Register.

The commission also sent the state a list of about 50 local county landmarks and potential landmarks that it wants to be considered as well.

Since the alignment is not yet finalized, “we asked them to keep these in mind,” Franz said.

The Will County Historic Preservation Commission also has been actively involved in the planning process, which is still in the “very early” stages, said the county’s senior transportation planner, Alicia Hanzon.

Public hearings will be held in the fall on the final alignment, she said.

“They are trying to go above and beyond what is required,” she said of the state’s efforts.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana Will Require Tax Dollars Despite What they Say

Doug Ross's editorial stated that "the $1 billion to be spent on this project would come from private dollars, not tax money."

That prompts the question of whether Indiana and Illinois taxpayers really look like we were born yesterday.

Private investors put their money into projects from which they can reasonably expect net returns. Every set of outside experts that has looked at the Illiana Expressway plan has concluded that it would cost far more than what is being quoted and would not attract huge usage -- even if it was a freeway.

Private investors would require it to be a tollway so that they can be paid back, in which case it beggars belief to think that lots of truckers would divert from the free I-80 to use the less convenient and not free Illiana. And do we really think that private investors would not hire their own expert analysts and come to the same blindingly obvious conclusions?

The only way private investors will be persuaded to put their money into this turkey is with government guarantees of those bonds. When the project's actual numbers predictably turn out far different from the current claims, those guarantees will be called upon. So the only way the Illiana Expressway will ever get built is with taxpayer dollars one way or another.

- Paul Botts, Chicago

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Could Illiana Expressway Be Dead on Arrival?

Story originally published in The Daily Journal.

Though the state has already determined the amount of farmland, forest, wetland and streams that will likely be destroyed to build the 47-mile Illiana Expressway — as well as the number of remaining residents and homes standing in the way — talk at Monday's meeting on the proposed roadway centered on one major roadblock.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency, an influential planning group created by the state, still appears skeptical of the proposal and has yet to include the project in its 30-year plan.

"The key question is: Is this needed? The answer is yes," said Steve Schilke, an Illiana project manager from the Illinois Department of Transportation. "This will help the [rapidly expanding] freight sector of this entire region."

If the multibillion dollar project (just how much it will cost is under dispute) is not included in CMAP's 2040 plan, the Illiana just might be dead on arrival. CMAP is expected to vote on the Illiana on Oct. 9.

If the project is included in the plan, the roadway would still need federal approval.

To move the amount of freight expected, a large amount of it pouring through the region due to the explosion of intermodel developments in Will County, there will be a cost above and beyond the steel and concrete needed to build a modern expressway.

According to the state's data, the project will consume: 3,008 to 3,334 acres of farmland; 157 to 170 acres of forest; 70 to 72 acres of wetlands; and 14 to 15 miles of stream.

In addition, 36 to 63 residences will also need to be condemned as well as 109 to 145 buildings.

The numbers vary because there are still several alternate plans for the expressway that will connect Interstate 55 at Wilmington to Interstate 65 between Lowell and Cedar Lake in northwestern Indiana.

Much of the proposed roadway would run about two miles north of the Kankakee and Will County line.

While CMAP has taken issue with several points of the corridor committee's study, Schilke remained confident.

"They are not issues we can't overcome," he said. "We know there are questions that still have to be answered."

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Opposition to Illiana Expressway Increasing on Eve of Important Votes

Story originally published in The Herald-News.

JOLIET — Will County and Illinois Department of Transportation officials may be facing an uphill battle to get the Illiana Expressway added to a federal funding list.

“This is a tough go,” John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said Tuesday during a Will County Board Legislative and Policy Committee meeting.

Information released Monday by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning shows public comment was overwhelmingly against a plan to amend the agency’s Go To 2040 plan to include the 47-mile tollway that would link Interstate 55 in Wilmington with Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.

During a 30-day period that ended Sept. 3, 965 comments were received. Of those, 169 were in support and 796 were against, according to IDOT officials. Also, the comments included two petitions with a total of 3,798 signatures from people opposing the project.

The comments will all be taken into account before the CMAP and Metropolitan Planning Organization boards vote on the Illiana amendment on Oct. 9.

Will County officials have been told that the project could proceed if the MPO board votes yes, even if the CMAP board votes no. Both boards are part of a federal review process for getting projects added to a fiscally constrained funding list.

Last week, a different agency, the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council, came out against the Illiana, saying IDOT’s $1.3 billion cost estimate for the road was “dubious” and it could cost up to $2.9 billion.

The higher estimate is “an enormous amount of money for one project, particularly in a severely cash-strapped state,” Metropolitan Planning Council President MarySue Barrett wrote in a letter to The Herald-News and SouthtownStar.

According to its website, the Metropolitan Planning Council is a nonprofit, nonpartisan agency that has been working for a “more sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region” since 1934. The council’s board does not get to vote on the Illiana.

But there are other stumbling blocks that could hurt the Illiana. On July 10, three environmental groups — Openlands, the Midewin Heritage Association and the Sierra Club — filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago to try to block the project. And on July 30, a CMAP staff criticized IDOT’s Illiana plan and its cost and economic benefit estimates. Cook County and McHenry County officials also are opposed to the road because they fear it will harm funding for projects in their counties, Greuling said.

With opposition mounting, “it’s pretty hardball politics right now, quite frankly,” Greuling said to committee members, who voted unanimously Tuesday to continue to include the Illiana in the county’s legislative agenda.

Committee Chairman Bob Howard, D-Beecher, said it doesn’t seem right that planning agencies in Chicago can trump state legislators who have approved the Illiana project and its public-private partnership. And Greuling said he has never seen CMAP scrutinize a road project as closely as it has the Illiana.

Bruce Friefeld, the county board’s chief of staff, urged the committee and the full county board to approve a resolution backing the Illiana at its Sept. 19 meeting, in advance of the Oct. 9 vote in Chicago.

One complicating Catch-22 for the Illiana is the fact that IDOT can’t tell CMAP and the MPO how much money a private entity would chip in for the road through a public-private partnership because the project hasn’t been bid yet, Greuling said. As a result, the planning agencies have to assume the state would need to come up with all of the money, and that could hurt the Illiana’s chances of getting on the federal funding list.

Recently, Gov. Pat Quinn and state transportation Secretary Ann Schneider tried to fast-track the Illiana and said they hoped to break ground in 2015.

Will County and IDOT officials have argued that the Illiana would provide much needed relief for Interstates 55 and 80 by siphoning off truck traffic that rolls out of intermodal truck/train transfer facilities in Elwood and Joliet.

Greuling said the road was never intended to foster residential and commercial development, so it really wouldn’t add to the urban sprawl that CMAP is opposed to.

“It truly is a bypass,” Greuling said.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Illiana Will Disrupt Lives, Houses

Illiana wants to uproot 48 miles of homes and adversely affect the lives of nearly a thousand people who live in or near the proposed route.

The Times and Rich James in particular continue to shout "we need it, we need it," and in support thereof, they refer to Daniel Burnham's plan. Did Mr. Burnham envision 48 miles of homes prior to construction?

The Times and Rich James in particular ridicule us NIMBYs without ever expressing a word of consideration for us. Will we become wealthy enough to relocate? Will we be furnished free legal representation? What amount would be fair compensation? Why not discuss these issues.

Finally, editors of The Times and Rich James in particular, how will the Illiana benefit residents of Lake County? The vast majority of these residents live north of U.S. 30 — some 20-plus miles north of the proposed Illiana route. Then there will be the toll, the rate of which will be set by private investors. And what about the amount of property that will be removed from the tax rolls?

Tell us the benefit.

- Bill Kowalski, Lowell

Full Story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Cook County Councilmember Says No to Illiana

The following letter from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was acquired by Greg Hinz at chicagobusiness.com and the full story is here.

An influential civic group says the proposed Illiana expressway isn't worth $1.35 billion.

In a surprisingly blunt assessment, the Metropolitan Planning Council says the proposed road, which would travel through the south suburbs from Interstate 80 in Illinois to Interstate 65 in Indiana, would cost as much as four times what the state projects, serve relatively few motorists and potentially drain funds from higher-priority road projects.

"The current plan for the Illiana does not demonstrate significant transportation or economic benefits in exchange for high and uncertain costs," the council said in a statement. "MPC opposes the Illiana."

Building the road in a public/private partnership has been a top priority for Gov. Pat Quinn, whose administration did not immediately respond to the MPC statement. But the council's conclusions closely follow those of the staff of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the region's official traffic cop of sorts for receiving limited federal transportation funds.

CMAP next month is to decide whether to add the proposed road to the region's priority list or leave it off, an action that likely would kill the plan.

Among other things, the council says the roadway likely would cost much more than the projected $1.35 billion and carry only a fraction of the traffic that regular thoroughfares like Irving Park Road in Chicago and Cermak Road in Cicero do now. As a result, it concludes, the road, which has been bitterly opposed by anti-sprawl environmental groups, would have an "imperceptible" impact on the Chicago-area economy.

This is just a summary of what MPC wrote. Read the whole thing for yourself to get the details.

Meanwhile, the question remains: Will the officials who serve on the CMAP board stick with the staff, or be persuaded to go in another direction?

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Metropolitan Planning Council: Illiana a "Mistake"

Full story here.

The Metropolitan Planning Council, a non-profit promoting economic development strategies for Chicagoland, has come out strongly against the Illiana Expressway, a 47-mile highway the Illinois Department of Transportation has proposed for the rural communities of southern Will County and northwestern Indiana. MPC released a statement yesterday highlighting numerous shortcomings in IDOT’s proposal, including vague financing plans and the overall failure to address the region’s transportation needs.

As Streetsblog reported, IDOT needs a vote of approval from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to spend money on the Illiana, which was not included on the list of “fiscally constrained projects” in the GO TO 2040 regional plan.

Making its case against the project, MPC cites the uncertain cost to taxpayers of building and maintaining the road and criticizes the kind of public-private partnership that IDOT is exploring, called an “availability payment”:

A likely P3 scenario would leverage an availability payment, through which a private company agrees to finance capital costs in exchange for guaranteed payments from the public sector over a defined period. This model puts the public sector at risk; if collected toll revenues fall below expectations, the government must find a way to pay the financing company its guaranteed annual payment.

To jumpstart construction, taxpayers “will likely need to provide more than two-thirds of Illinois’ share of the capital costs of the Illiana,” according to CMAP’s analysis. If the Illiana gobbles up those public funds, it could jeopardize funding for six other projects in the GO TO 2040 plan, MPC warns. Those six projects are: extending the CTA Red Line to 130th Street; extending IL-53 as a boulevard; constructing the West Loop Transportation Center; building the I-294/I-57 Interchange; taking Elgin-O’Hare Expressway to O’Hare and building West O’Hare Bypass; and now building the Circle Interchange.

Failed financing for rural toll roads around the nation. Image from MPC's Q&A.
MPC went so far as to find eight projects in GO TO 2040 that, added together, would equal the $950 million in public and private dollars that IDOT wants to devote to the Illiana. These included transit extension and road widening projects like adding lanes to Eisenhower and extending the Metra Electric into Will County, close to where the Illiana would be.

IDOT is mounting a campaign for the highway, publishing a brochure [PDF] in response to CMAP’s skeptical report on the project.

In the brochure IDOT purports to offer “a close look at the Illiana Facts.” For example, IDOT says the project is “strongly supported by stakeholders across the study area.” That’s to be expected when both CMAP and IDOT project more jobs for those areas, at the expense of already-urbanized areas surrounding Chicago. But according to MPC’s analysis of IDOT’s studies, only 940 net new jobs would be created in the region, while jobs would shift from Cook County and nearby counties to Indiana. IDOT’s own analysis, MPC writes, shows the Chicago region losing 5,000 jobs and 7,000 people with a “rough equivalent” number relocating to Indiana. Is this how IDOT should be allocating scarce transportation dollars?

The brochure says the Illiana Expressway “would be a strong trucking corridor.” Again, this provides no regional context. MPC notes that, according to IDOT’s own forecast: “[the] Illiana would do little to relieve congestion, reducing vehicle hours of travel in…areas south of I-80…by just 1.08 percent and reducing regional truck hours by less than 1.0 percent.” IDOT’s project studies show that very little truck traffic actually terminates in Indiana and is instead headed to Michigan and Ohio, north of the Illiana corridor. These truckers would scarcely save any time using the new highway, even when traffic on it is completely free-flowing.

IDOT has also complained to CMAP [PDF] that if the regional agency doesn’t vote to allow the project, then $40 million in planning would be lost. But that’s the nature of planning: You study whether or not something is worth building, and how it would be built. If, in the end, it’s not worth building, then the planning was still worthwhile because it prevented the much larger expense of building an unjustifiable major highway.

On October 9, members of three CMAP committees and the executive board will vote on the Illiana project. Will they again let IDOT muscle in a costly project with weak regional benefits, pushing other priorities out of the way?

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: Time to Stop Illiana, "Road to Nowhere"

Whether it's $670,000 for copper-clad doors at the state capitol or a billion-dollar-plus expressway through the cornfields of Will County, Illinois officials can't bring spending in line with budgetary reality.

While the capitol door outlay generated more media attention and public outcry last week, its significance is mostly symbolic. The expressway project, however, involves what Everett Dirksen would have called “real money.”

Gov. Pat Quinn wants to build a highway linking Interstate 80 in Will County with I-65 in northwest Indiana. Supporters say the project will ease congestion, create jobs and spark economic development. Planners at the Illinois Department of Transportation estimate the cost at $1.35 billion. Mr. Quinn wants to split construction expenses with a developer through a public-private partnership.

On Sept. 4, however, the Metropolitan Planning Council, a local civic group, published a report questioning the benefits and the cost estimates of the project. The report largely echoed concerns raised in late July by staff at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, a government agency that oversees certain aspects of transportation planning for northeastern Illinois.

“MPC has determined that the Illiana would provide few benefits in exchange for high and uncertain costs,” the group said. MPC concluded the highway would have almost no effect on congestion, create fewer than 1,000 “long-term” jobs and “expand the economy by an insignificant amount.”

As for cost, MPC estimated the final tab for the roadway and related projects at nearly twice IDOT's estimate. CMAP staffers came up with a similar figure. MPC also predicted the state would shoulder far more of the total cost than its private partner.

Citing higher construction costs for highway projects around the country, both reports accuse IDOT of low-balling its estimates. They also say the agency assumed unrealistic economic benefits.

Now it's up to CMAP to decide whether to include Illiana on a list of high-priority local transportation projects.

The right choice looks pretty clear to me. We have three reports assessing the costs and benefits of the project. The only one supporting Illiana comes from a state agency that exists to build highways, and was prepared for a governor who wants to cut ribbons. The two reports opposing it come from groups with transportation expertise but no skin in the game.

A state in fiscal crisis can't afford to roll the dice on multibillion-dollar projects, especially when the weight of expert analysis suggests the bet won't pay off.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illinois Appoints Land Acquisition Ombudsman for Illiana Project

Will County State's Attorney Jim Glasgow appointed Michael Hansen to serve as an arbitrater or ombusman for land acquisition associated with the proposed Illiana Expressway. The road, which would traverse approximately 40 miles of land in Will County, will require the purchase of thousands of acreage from landowners.

According to information from the Illiana Corridor Committee, there are 22 residential properties and 2,725 acres of farmland that are in the path of the expressway and its 400-foot wide right of way. A significant portion of the proposed route travels about two miles north of the Will-Kankakee County line.

The ombudsman, as the position is being referred to, will not report to officials with Will County or the state. An ombudsman typically acts as in-between in settling disputes or complaints.

Among his duties, Hansen will:

• Explain property owners' right regarding on-site inspections by state surveyors and appraisers.

• Educate owners on state guidelines for property acquisition and relocation assistance.

• Inform owners of eminent domain powers.

• Inform landowners of the negotiating process for the sale of property.

• Recommend real estate appraisers to assist owners with IDOT negotiations.

• Act as an intermediary between owners and IDOT.

SEVER STOREY NOTE: Despite Mr. Hansen's presence in land acqusition, it is important to note that there are still plenty of competent resources available for landowners subject to eminent domain--including Sever Storey--that will help for free. Furthermore, ombudsmen are regularly appointed for large scale projects, but that is no guarantee that offers of just compensation will be appropriate.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

City of Braidwood Approves Illiana Resolution

The Braidwood City Council approved a resolution supporting the proposed Illiana Expressway in early September, joining several other cities and organizations in support behind the project.

The Illiana Expressway is a proposed 40-mile highway that would connection Wilmington, IL to Lowell, IN. The project is still waiting on approval from both the Chicago Metropolitation Planning Commission and the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission before going forward. Many entities are currently voicing support or disapproval of the road.

Both the Will County Governmental League and the Will County Center for Economic Development called for the resolution of support, Mayor Bill Rulien said in discussion before the vote.

The issue is to be voted on by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in October. CMAP’s inclusion of the plan as part of the long range goals for the region is seen as a key factor in moving forward.

Rulien said those opposed do not see the necessity as clearly as Braidwood: “We think it is because they don’t live down here with the trucks.”

The resolution in support of construction reads, in part:

“With the opening of the intermodal facility in Joliet and Elwood there has been a significant increase in heavy truck traffic seeking an alternate east-west route. The damage to our narrow local roads has been considerable.

“Soon Ridgeport will open as the third intermodal facility in neighboring Wilmington with yet another proposed rail industrial park approved in Coal City. Since none of these facilities are anywhere near capacity yet, it is appropriate to start building a major road to handle existing and future truck traffic.”

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

IDOT Updates Will County on Illiana

In a meeting with Will County officials, representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation issued news that has long been the not-so-hidden secret behind the Illiana Expressway project: the project's reality will hinge on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).

CMAP does all the planning for all major infrastructure projects in Northeastern Illinois and the Illiana Expressway is not on the agency’s fiscally constrained project list.

“In order for us to get a record of decision on the Illiana, it has to get to the fiscally constrained plan so that is our next big step,” Fortman said, adding that a “rough” estimated cost for the project came to $1.25 billion, $950 million of which would be Illinois’ responsibility, with Indiana being responsible for the rest.

Currently the CMAP is set to vote on Illiana on October 9th. If CMAP approves the project, it will go a long way toward speeding up the project, which is still in its design stage. Representatives from the project estimated a final design deadline of Fall 2013, but a CMAP rejection would almost certainly delay that deadline.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the lliana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Landowners, Citizens Rally in Lowell Against Illiana

Northwest Hoosiers and politicians alike showed up at an anti-Illiana rally Monday night in Lowell, IN. The hundred or so people in attendance at the VFW Lodge had assorted reasons for their disdain of the proposed interstate road project, but one message was consistent: "we don't want it."

"What's good for Indiana? If you can't see that, then as elected officials, you can't support this," Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell said.

 He said those millions could be spent on provisions in Senate Bill 585, which he said is enjoying "all kinds of bipartisan support," would put governor-appointees on the board of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority, require a study of a second Lake Michigan port and mandate a study on the need for a trauma one center in northwest Indiana.

Capitalizing on the recent Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning report, which found the Illiana's planners sharply underestimated its costs and overestimated its benefits, the meeting's leaders urged the crowd to contact all members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission with the message. Approval from NIRPC is necessary for the expressway project to happen.

The planned Illiana project is currently in the midst of narrowing the route choice. IDOT and INDOT expect to announce the final route selection sometime this fall.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Chicago Planning Agency Takes Shots at Illiana

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) criticized the proposed Illiana Expressway project earlier this week, specifically casting doubt as to the proposed plan for the massive project.

Posted on its website earlier this week, CMAP suggests that the proposed roadway from Interstate 80 in Will County east to Interstate 65 in Indiana will cost significantly more than its backers admit, presents "a high level of (financial) risk" and is inconsistent with public forecasts for future economic and population growth in metropolitan Chicago.

Beyond that, the report says, the project, if completed, is likely to increase gross regional product by a fairly slim $425 million in 2040, barely a fifth of the $2 billion estimated by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The report still needs to be approved by CMAP's transportation committee before it's put out for public comment, and it could later be amended or rejected by CMAP's board and policy committee, on which IDOT is represented.

CMAP's comments are rare for proposed major transportation projects and may give some insight as to the direction CMAP leans on the interstate highway. Before Illiana becomes a reality, it will need CMAP's approval, among other requirements.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway or South Suburban Airport and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

Illiana Opponents Cite Environmental Concerns

An area conservationist has a list of demands that Illiana Expressway organizers need to heed if it goes forward with its massive interstate passageway.

"For the most part, soils in the corridor are clay or silt-based soils of the Valparaiso Moraine. For these soils to remain productive, surface drainage with a subsurface drainage component is essential to soil productivity and to long-term soil health," Bill Moran, a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said. He said it has been suggested an elevated highway would take care of farming and drainage issues.

Moran suggested an agriculture district should be established in Lake County if the project moves forward. Mitigation funds would be used to buy development rights to preserve an area of prime and unique farmland equal in size to that being lost in the county.

Moran said the proposed Illiana route cuts through no fewer than 23 major farming operations affecting at least 46 farm families.

SEVER STOREY NOTE: Mr. Moran makes some great points. Often one of the more overlooked aspects of land acquisition for highways is the impact on drainage or water access. These effects demand attention from IDOT and INDOT and are absolutely compensable under both state's eminent domain laws.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

 

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