Some Will County residents wary of the Illiana Expressway
BY BOB OKON Sun-Times Media October 17, 2012 5:58PM
Kevin Kirwin, a Wilmington alderman, mows his back yard off Sea Ray Lane Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Wilmington. The proposed Illiana Expressway may be situated north of the neighborhood. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 18, 2012 11:49AM
WILMINGTON — Judy Radosevich looks out from her back deck and sees a cornfield nearby and the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in the distance, a view that someday may be dominated by the Illiana Expressway.
“We have the most beautiful sunsets,” Radosevich said, accepting the likelihood that semitrailers on the expressway will become a big part of the view someday.
“It’s going to come whether we like it or not,” she said. “It’s just a matter of where they’re going to stick it.”
Radosevich is the city clerk in Wilmington, a city that has showed no enthusiasm for the plan to build the expressway as an alternative east-west route between Interstate 55 and Interstate 65 in Indiana.
Advocates for the expressway see it as a boon to transportation and a potential stimulus for economic development. Cities and villages have voiced their support for one of the various three routes that were suggested for the road.
Most local governments backed the route that would run behind Radosevich’s house in the Water’s Edge subdivision, a rural neighborhood of upscale homes built around a man-made lake that has been used for national waterskiing contests.
The Wilmington City Council, though, cast its vote for what’s called the “no-build” option, which, as it sounds, means don’t build the expressway at all.
No-build is still an option.
But the Illinois Department of Transportation said this month that if the Illiana Expressway is built, it will be built along the route that runs along the north edge of Wilmington.
That was good news for many.
“It’s great news,” said John Greuling, chief executive for the Will County Center for Economic Development. “They picked a corridor we liked, and they did it in a very timely fashion.”
Grueling said work on the Illiana Expressway is moving at a good pace, which makes him “optimistic” that a final decision on the project could come in 1-1/2 years.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, represents a district just north of where the selected route runs. He opposed another route that would have run through his district. The northern route would have been more costly, he said, because it would have required building a bridge over the Des Plaines River. It also was vigorously opposed by the village of Channahon, which stood to lose homes and access to I-55.
“That northern route would have dislocated a lot more houses,” Walsh said.
Still, 22 houses would be lost in the route selected by the state.
Those houses are scattered along the 47-mile route, said Steve Schilke, the Illinois Department of Transportation’s project manager for the expressway. And, he said, the estimate of 22 homes is a “worst-case scenario.”
Schilke said the state never did plan to run the expressway through the Water’s Edge subdivision.
But that would be news to Radosevich, many of her neighbors and even local state legislators who have said that earlier indications were that homes would be lost at Water’s Edge and in the village of Symerton. Symerton also would be bypassed in the preferred route, IDOT says.
Wilmington Ald. Kevin Kirwin, who also lives in Water’s Edge, said Oct. 9 was the first time he learned that his house would not likely be torn down to make room for the expressway. And he’s still not confident his house will not be in the highway’s path.
Even so, Kirwin said, “Nobody’s going to like having an expressway in their back yard.”
Especially not William Naughton, another Water’s Edge resident who would prefer the state buy his house for the expressway rather than build it so close to where he lives.
“I wish they would just take the house,” Naughton said. “I don’t want all that noise.”