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IDOT tweaks Illiana Expressway proposal, wants it to be a tollway

Lowners Dennis Bender (left) Tom Spangler review plans for the
IllianExpressway Peotone High School Tuesday. | Cindy WojdylCain~Sun-Times Media

Land owners Dennis Bender (left) and Tom Spangler review plans for the Illiana Expressway at Peotone High School on Tuesday. | Cindy Wojdyla Cain~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 22, 2013 5:10PM



The Illinois Department of Transportation on Tuesday unveiled a slightly revised Illiana Expressway plan and formally proposed that it be a tollway, as has been expected.

Since a public meeting in April, IDOT made a few changes to the 47-mile route that will stretch from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 in Indiana.

Two more potential interchanges have been added — one at Wilton Center Road and another at Illinois 50 — that would bring the total number of interchanges along the Illiana to eight in Illinois and three in Indiana, IDOT announced at a public meeting at Peotone High School.

Twelve more local roads, seven in Illinois and five in Indiana, will be open and won’t dead end at the highway under the revised plan. And the planned route also has shifted south in the Beecher area to avoid splitting farmland.

The changes were made after IDOT met with landowners, emergency responders, school district officials and local elected officials.

For instance, emergency responders worried that there was no interchange on a 16-mile stretch of the Illiana Expressway between Illinois 45 and 53, so the Wilton Center interchange was added.

Steve Schilke, IDOT’s project manager for the tollway project, touted its benefits in a press session before the meeting and during the public meeting.

The tollway will create an estimated 9,000 construction jobs and create about 25,000 long-term jobs through development, Schilke said, and will reduce vehicle miles on arterial roads by 26 million annually.

Some landowners were still upset with the plan, even though it has been modified. Dennis Bender, the assessor for Florence and Wilton townships, owns property on Elevator Road that will be impacted by the Illiana.

“I just think the entire program is a political boondoggle,” he said, citing the state’s severe financial problems. “And they want to blow another $1 billion or $2 billion on something that is not necessary.”

The state would be better off making Wilmington-Peotone Road four lanes, he said.

Tom Spangler, who owns a 160-acre farm east of Symerton, also is unhappy with the proposed highway.

“I don’t care for it. I’ve never cared for it,” he said, adding that IDOT’s tweaks to the plan don’t make it any better. “The only changes that would make me happy is no build, period.”

Keith and Julie Becker’s 10-acre home site will benefit from the changes. Instead of splitting their 10 acres in half, the Illiana will now miss their property entirely.

“I’m not for it, but it’s better than it was for us,” Julie Becker said.

Even so, the tollway would run behind their house, which is on Kennedy Road west of Peotone.

“You’ll still look out, and there will be an interstate there that wasn’t there before,” she said.

While property owners are unhappy with the Illiana Expressay cutting through their farms and yards, local construction and engineering companies are happy to see it. Engineer Daniel Malinowski, who is the Joliet office manager for Willett Hofmann Associates, an engineering, architecture and land surveying firm, attended the meeting to hear more about the project.

“I think it’s great for the future economic growth for the whole region,” he said. “Also, it will impact the transportation efficiency of the other interstates, I-80 and I-55. ... It’s going to benefit businesses, but I think it’s going to improve the quality of life for our region in general.”

That’s the message that IDOT is pushing as it finalizes plans for the tollway. If all goes according to plan, another hearing will be held in October to finalize details of the route. Then, IDOT will create a draft environmental impact statement with alternatives.

After getting more feedback, IDOT will create a final plan for the tollway and hopes for approval of it early next year. If that happens, land acquisition will begin and construction could start in 2015.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week, IDOT will hold a vendor fair, seeking companies to join a public-private partnership with the state to get the road built. That process will be under way as IDOT works on its final plan.

The road is expected to take three years to construct, so it could be open by 2018, Schilke said.

For more information on the Illiana Expressway, go to www.illianacorridor.org.



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