Friday, March 26, 2010

Illiana Expressway; a bumpy road

Speed bumps may impact Indiana's new Illiana Expressway law in the form of the communities most impacted by it.

Earlier this month, Lowell, IN councilmen opposed the project even before the ink on the legislation had dried. Lowell councilmen voted not to support the plan until more is known about the route the road will take.

Lowell is situated east and slightly south of Beecher.

Tuesday officials in Lowell drafted a letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels, state senators and representatives citing a need for additional information on the project. They noted lack of local input into its planning.

Michael Jordan, a Lowell-area developer, who opposes the Illiana Expressway, wants to see Lowell officials have an audience with legislators to express their concerns. Jordan believes that supporters, who refuse to pinpoint the exact route of the Illiana Expressway, are using a "divide and conquer" strategy.

He indicated the move is designed to divide landowners who oppose the road, segregating them from others who live along a different route. It would be easier to defeat three unconnected small groups than one large group with momentum on its side.

Jordan suggests the strategy may have come about after the northern route of the Illiana into Porter County was met with tremendous opposition. He explained that when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels saw how intense the opposition was, he dropped the plan.

"It was a single route," Jordan said.

Strategy is nothing new

A similar strategy has been used before, and by some of the same people.

In the early 1990's the proposal to build a new regional airport near Peotone was buried among five sites being eyed for development. Many believed that the Peotone site was always the favored location by decision-makers.

One of the most vocal supporters then and now for the proposed airport at Peotone is the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. At that time, Barbara Sloan was the SSMMA's transportation director. Today, she is behind the Illiana Feasibility Study, by Cambridge Systematics.

Possibly more dissention

In another Indiana town – Cedar Lake, east of Crete – there are also some concerns about a lack of input into the project's planning. Once solidly in favor of the project, Cedar Lake officials may be starting to have some doubts.  

Council members were recently put on the spot when a resident, Sharon Pacific of Hanover Township, polled them about their support for the road.

Pacific lives on 10 acres that one of the proposed routes could impact. Pacific not only has a stake in the plan, but she questions the merits of the road.

According to the Northwest Indiana Times, Cedar Lake Council President Dennis Wilkening indicated that the council's sentiments may have shifted.

The Illiana Feasibility Study identified three potential routes. One is north of Cedar Lake. Another is between Cedar Lake and Lowell. The connection in Illinois for both of those routes would be between Crete and Beecher. A third route is between Route 2 and the Kankakee River. In Illinois that translates to south of Beecher.

The Illiana has been billed as a reliever for truck traffic on the Borman Expressway or Interstate 80/94, but Lowell officials are among many who question whether truck drivers will travel an estimated 55 miles more and pay additional tolls to drive on it.

More on RFD vs. Peotone

With regard to the previous post in CHBlog, Illinois contingency asks Gov. Quinn to abandon South Suburban Airport, about officials from the Rockford area calling Illinois Gov. Quinn's plan for Peotone development "wasteful."

What is most revealing are the insightful comments that follow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Airports and Expressways, big similarity

It is no wonder the Peotone Airport and Illiana Expressway have been so intrinsically linked. Not only was the Illiana a part of the early studies on the Peotone Airport, but the players remain the same. I thought I was watching an airport meeting. Barbara Sloan was the former Transportation Director for the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. Randy Blankenhorn was a former IDOT employee.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Illinois contingency asks Gov. Quinn to abandon South Suburban Airport

U.S. Congressman calls South Suburban Airport plans 'wasteful'

U.S. Congressman, Don Manzullo, (R-IL) along with several Illinois state senators and representatives wrote a letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn yesterday, urging him to stop wasting state funds on a new airport at Peotone in eastern Will County.

Advocating for a new airport has been long and costly for Illinois taxpayers

Despite Illinois' budget crisis, Quinn recently allocated another $100 million to the Peotone project.

Illinois taxpayers have shouldered the burden for ongoing feasilibity studies for a new airport since 1985 when  a concept plan from twenty years prior, were envisioned. The latest allocation of taxpayer funds would include just the purchase of additional land. The state owns only about half of what would be needed to build a new airfield.

The estimated $5 billion project does not include any of the infrastructure that would be needed to turn a farming community into a metropolis, what would be needed to make an airport viable. The present landscape of the area proposed to house the Peotone airport contains farmsteads and historic farmsteads, which use well and septic systems. Tar and chip roads are far from that which could accommodate airport traffic or even heavy construction traffic.

Nearby towns and townships have long been on-the-record as being opposed to the construction of a new airport. Residents have fought the proposal since 1987.

In addition to opposition from the people who would live with a new airport, all of the major airlines have said they would not use an airport at Peotone.

Congressman Manzullo tells it like it is

"We believe it is unconscionable for the State of Illinois to continue to waste precious taxpayer resources on this unnecessary project as the state struggles with record budget deficits and debt," Manzullo wrote.

Citing last week's agreement between the major airlines and the City of Chicago  to move forward on the O'Hare Modernization Program, the Rockford congressman said, "it is even more egregious and unnecessary for the state of Illinois to continue to spend scare taxpayer dollars on the South Suburban Airport (Peotone Airport) that the airlines have said they do not want or need."

Manzullo named Rockford as an alternative airport to Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. He reiterated the statement by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the same agency pushing the Peotone project, that the Chicago-Rockford International Airport, "RFD is the airport with the greatest potential for development of passenger service and the ability to maintain passenger service."

The existing RFD is the alternative to development at Peotone, he said, pointing out that RFD offers passenger air service now handles one million passengers. It can easily serve five million passengers per year.

While Peotone remains in the study phase, unapproved by the federal government , RFD has made more than $150 million in federally-funded capital improvements, including the construction of a 10,000-foot runway, net international terminal, and Category-III Instrument Landing System capable of accommodating any plan that flies.

In conclusion, Manzullo and state signatories—Sens. Dave Syverson, Tim Bivins, and Christine Johnson, along with State Reps. Jim Sacia, Joe Sosnowski, Dave Winters, and Robert Pritchard—asked Gov. Quinn to "abandon these wasteful plans at Peotone." They invited Quinn and Illinois Secretary of Transportation Gary Hannig to meet with them at RFD to see first-hand the potential that exists there.

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