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Will County farm interests, IDOT meet on Illiana Expressway

Updated: February 11, 2014 6:18AM



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.



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