Couple in proposed tollway’s path: ‘We thought we were safe’
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY email@example.com August 18, 2014 7:08PM
Paula and Tony Basile stand inside the huge garage/workshop that Tony built on their property. He calls it his "playground" and wonders how he would replace it if they are forced to move to make way for the proposed Illiana tollway. | Susan DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times Media
Illiana Tollway Impact
There are many properties and faces that are part of the rural landscape of southern Will County — many folks who have made country life their livelihood, their dream, their retirement.
They have stories to tell about what it means to live out here, to grow up here, surrounded by vast open space during the day and by quiet and dark skies at night.
Now they worry deeply about their future and the future of rural Will County. The proposed Illiana tollway that will plow a 47-mile concrete path through this farmland from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 in Lowell, Indiana, forever will change the landscape and uproot their lives in the process, they said.
The project is awaiting federal approval and a funding plan involving both states and likely a private partnership. A record of decision has been pushed back to late winter and no land offers can be made until they have that approval, but that only prolongs the landowners’ anguish.
They came out here to escape city life. It was the last place they ever expected to see such a roadway built.
Their shock has given way to anger, fear, resignation and questions — many more questions than for which there are answers.
The SouthtownStar has met many of these people in the path, sat down at their kitchen tables, walked along their land and listened to their stories.
This is the third in a six-part occasional series presenting what they had to say.
Updated: August 19, 2014 2:08AM
Tony and Paula Basile proudly walk around their 10-acre site on Cedar Road in Wilton Center, which features the brick raised ranch and huge two-story barn built largely by Tony more than 20 years ago.
There also is the concrete patio that Tony poured, the storybook gardens developed by Paula, along with the ornamental pear tree — a gift from her son that survived a recent tornado — and the raised vegetable garden Tony built for Paula as a Mother’s Day gift.
Sure, the rabbits chew on a few plants, but it is easy to appreciate the meditation area with a pond, the Hobbit garden and the yellow brick road to amuse the grandchildren.
Most of what is here was built by the hard-working hands of Tony and Paula, who have been married 44 years.
As they walk through their property that the Illinois Department of Transportation wants to buy for the proposed Illiana tollway, they wonder, “How do you put a price on sentimental value?”
“We thought this was a good location. We thought we were safe,” Paula said of their homesite, far removed from urban life. “I never thought this would happen living out here.”
“We thought we could stay as long as we could manage,” Tony said.
But the thought of the proposed interchange at Wilton Center in their front yard is paralyzing.
“I don’t know what to do. We have no place to go,” Tony said. And when he thinks about packing it all up to move, he just shakes his head and says, “I’m too old for this.”
Typically, he loves to hang out in that huge barn he built — where his woodshop and mechanical shop are set up.
“That’s my playground,” he said. But lately, he’s lost all interest in it.
At his age, he knows he will not be able to replace what he has here in Wilton Center.
The state will help them relocate within 50 miles, but that’s not far enough for the Basiles. Tony said he wants to get out of Illinois — maybe go to Iowa. But their three children and three grandchildren are here. This home and yard are where the family gathers for all occasions.
The pool table in the family room — still decorated from their granddaughter’s fourth birthday party when their interview with the SouthtownStar took place — was covered with maps of where the tollway will plow through.
“That is breaking my heart. We are really torn,” Paula said. “There is nothing within 50 miles of here.”
They have been driving around the countryside — looking for potential sites, but can’t get far enough away to forget about the Illiana tollway.
“This will always be in the back of my mind. ‘Will this happen again?’ ” Paula said.
The proposed tollway is “baloney,” Tony said. “It’s in the wrong place. It belongs way down south. I can get to Lowell (Indiana) in 45 minutes now. Why would I pay a toll?”