IDOT: Illiana land buys on hold pending federal OK
By Susan DeMar Lafferty email@example.com July 16, 2014 9:00PM
IDOT representatives Mike Culligan (standing) responds to questions about the Illiana Expressway from residents at a Wilmington town meeting, July 16, 2014.| Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 17, 2014 2:10AM
Land on the Illinois side of the proposed Illiana Tollway project will not be acquired before the snow flies this winter.
That’s latest estimate as to when Illinois officials expect federal approval — a “Record of Decision” on the proposed 47- mile tollway from Wilmington, Illinois, to Lowell, Indiana.
Officials from the Illinois Department of Transportation told a standing room only crowd at Wilmington city hall Wednesday night that the ROD has been pushed back from early summer to late winter and no land offers can be made until they have that approval. They have held off on doing appraisals for now, and told property owners all they can do now is sit and wait for that offer.
The state has the money to acquire between 285 and 300 parcels, and will have to update the two dozen appraisals it has already done, officials said.
“I feel like a yo-yo. I have already found a house,” said one of the estimated 60 to 80 people who will be displaced by the project.
Bernard Benson, of Wilmington, told the two IDOT officials who attended the meeting, “Take your truck traffic and get out.”
He said state and county officials ignored 5,000 signatures on a petition opposing the new road and IDOT appears to be in turmoil with the recent resignation of transportation secretary Ann Schnieder.
“You do understand why we are crabby. You are dealing with our homes. This is extremely personal,” said one woman.
John McDonough, IDOT’s bureau chief of land acquisition, and Mike Cullian, also of the land acquisition department tried to answer questions and bring the people up to date on the tollway project.
An “involuntary move is always difficult,” Cullian said. “We try to make the process as smooth as possible.”
They told the crowd:
The Iliana is not a “definite go” until it is approved by the federal government.
Once an offer is made, the land owner will have three to six months to consider it, during which time they can get their own appraisal, or hire an attorney if they choose.
IDOT hires independent appraisers.
Appraisals are good for six months, and IDOT will not pursue additional appraisals at this time.
The state will pay fair market value for the property as if it were not impacted by the tollway.
If the ROD comes this winter, the state will move quickly on the project, and could begin construction in late 2015 or early 2016.
The ROD will be made for both Illinois and Indiana at the same time.
As they have stated in previous meetings, property owners again reiterated their concerns about the state’s financial mess and fears that the Illiana project could be left in limbo like the proposed south suburban airport in Peotone. They again urged state official to improve existing roads.
State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Peru, said she wants to make sure that property rights are protected and that taxpayers are not on the hook for this project, with is to be funded by a public-private partnership, with bonds supported by the toll revenues.
Also in attendance was state Rep. John Anthony, R-Morris, who said he is opposed to the Illiana.
Affected landowners may also contact their ombudsman Michael Hansen at (815) 744-9500, or firstname.lastname@example.org, who was hired by Will County to guide them through the land acquisition process.