Showing posts with label Illiana Expressway. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Illiana Expressway. Show all posts

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Illinois continues contempt for private land as Illiana Expressway bill gets approved

Illinois State Capitol
Illinois State Capitol
(Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)
It feels like deja vu all over again as the Illinois legislature recently approved a bill  (SB3318) that would allow Quick Take authority for the Illiana Expressway.

Normally, I hate the phrase--deja vu all over again because it is redundant--except in this case, it isn't. While deja vu refers to something that seemingly happened before, in the case of the Illinois legislature's boneheaded move to usurp the rights of landowners, the beat goes on. It might even be more appropriate to say this is deja vu all over again and again and again!

There may be small comfort in knowing that SB3318 squeaked by in the Illinois House with a vote of 61 to 57.

English: Senator, State, Toi Hutchinson Giving...
Senator, State, Toi Hutchinson 

Monday, June 7, 2010

The road to Peotone along a path of corruption

Illinois State Capitol
Illinois State Capitol (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)

State of Illinois officials are enthusiastic about building the Illiana Expressway.

It is often referred as the road to Peotone, the ill-fated 1968-to-present proposal to build a new airport south of Chicago, and with good reason. At one time, the State of Illinois, Department of Transportation identified the road, now called the Illiana Expressway, as the northernmost access road to the Peotone Airport. Though it was considered by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority as the southernmost leg of Interstate 355, that portion was considered to be part of the airport project.

After watching several Illinois legislatures and governors botch the decision-making process favors its corrupt pay-to-play system during the 1980's and '90's, the Illiana project may come to fruition. If it does, of the three proposed routes, I predict the one chosen will ultimately mirror the one drawn onto maps of the South Suburban Airport (SSA) decades ago.

For the record, I dislike calling the project the South Suburban Airport. Its location is rural, far from the south suburbs. The name falsely paints a picture of prosperity for some of the most beleaguered towns in Illinois. To believe that a one-runway and terminal building 40 miles south of Chicago will benefit or even affect the south suburbs is akin to believing in the tooth fairy.

I believe the airport is dead and never had a chance of success, and that the Illiana Expressway is the state's fall-back position. Supporters of concrete and asphalt who thrive on decimating farm fields and small towns can probably learn to be content with a ribbon of pavement rather than the huge paved square they had hoped for. After all, politics is the art of compromise.

That doesn't mean they won't continue to try. The Peotone Airport is written into every report and drawn on every map at the local, state, and federal levels. Government can be diligent when it comes to rubber stamping their desires onto as many documents as they can create. The Peotone proposition is as prolific as the writing on bathroom walls. For anyone who thinks the state has gone on to other things, they may be surprised to learn that it still dominates the development-at-all-cost discussions in planning meetings, board rooms, and on legislative agendas. Illinois Department of Transportation officials are always looking for new ways to try to sell their pet project. That is difficult when the project has been around as long as Ziploc bags and Pringles potato chips.

For some odd reason, the politicos in Illinois refuse to let go of this dinosaur. Perhaps their habitual hanging on has gone on so long that they just don't know how to let go, despite numerous opportunities to do the right thing; walk away from the project. There have been ways to heroically turn toward other things—tend to more necessary projects—and at the same time, keep their politics in-tact. But they have refused to do it.

The players have seemingly changed over the many years, but the difference is indiscernible. A governor here, a congressman there; they are all cut from the same expensive cloth borne out of a culture of greed and corruption.

My biggest disappointment is that the power really does lie with the people who have the ability to cut them off at the voting booth. Yet, too few have bothered to get involved, educate themselves, and/or make the connection to what is wrong and who is making decisions.

One of those who did bother to get involved was John Walliser, a homebuilder from Lockport Township. He was one of the victims of the state's desire to build Interstate 355 who saw his house demolished despite the fact that it never was in the path of the tollway. He was largely responsible for the 1996 court order that halted construction of the road builders until the state complied with federal law.

In the following file, Walliser details the story of I-355 and the state's corrupt officials. He names names of the government officials involved in the state's endemic corruption, with a focus on Sen. Roland Burris, as Illinois Attorney General. Walliser shows that Burris manipulated the state's culture of pay-to-play corruption for his own benefit.

Walliser discusses the laws that were meant to safeguard the public but don't. Entitled The Long and Winding Road to Peotone , Walliser connects the I-355 debacle to the state's wrongful attempts to acquire property for an airport that is neither approved nor imminent. His compelling arguments cannot be ignored.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Illiana Expressway gets another green light


The Illiana Expressway has been given the go-ahead—first in Indiana—and now in Illinois. Legislation that would allow the project to move forward through a public-private partnership awaits the governor's signature. That act will simply be a formality since Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn considers the project to be his future legacy.

What a disappointment Pat Quinn has been to so many who had hoped his fight-for-the-little-guy attitude could transform the governor's mansion, still lingering from the ill repute of its former occupants.

Instead, Quinn has embraced previous administration's tactics in his clamor for votes to keep him in the style to which he has become accustomed. Politics as usual is deeply entrenched in the Land of Lincoln.

The Illiana Expressway has been just another politically-motivated bad joke perpetrated on the people of Illinois who have had to pay for it.

It is a smokescreen for the South Suburban Airport/Peotone Airport as pointed out in an insightful column by Guy Tridgell in the May 11, 2010 Southtown Star . Tridgell called the Illiana "our very own Tobacco Road," referencing the 1932 novel by Erskine Caldwell that ends with the tragic death of the main characters.

"The airport has become the crazy aunt of Illinois who's permanently locked up in the attic. She is dying a slow, quiet death," Tridgell wrote.

He concluded, "They don't want to tell the constituents that they have failed, so they have created a new project as a diversion with the hope everyone stays quiet. The Illiana Expressway - the perfect smoke screen."

Tridgell is correct. The Illiana—once a part of the far-reaching, far-fetched 23,000-acre airport project—may be all that is left of Illinois' once grandiose plans.

But while Illinois officials and airport boosters hope the Illiana becomes the yellow-brick road to their avionic version of Oz, they may find that by using the same tactics, same tired arguments, and attempts at factual manipulation, the road may suffer the same fate as the airport.

The game changer, however, may be something Illinois officials rarely think about; it is the one thing that has surprised them in the past—Indiana.

At the same time that Illinois officials are crowing about their passed-too-quickly legislation to build the Illiana Expressway, Indiana officials look at the Illiana as a real tool for economic development and job creation.

Indiana's version of Oz also has an airport—the Gary/Chicago International Airport—that is real, viable, and a potential money-maker rather than the black hole for money that has been the Peotone Airport project. An Illiana Expressway could be a benefit to the transportation network in place in Indiana. Instead of the tar and chip roads that traverse the area where Illinois wants to bring millions of passengers per year, pavement leads to Indiana's airport. The Illiana could be an enhancement.

The Illiana could bring additional access to the Gary/Chicago airport.

Tridgell also called attention to the fact that neither state owns land for the project, nor has an exact location even been identified. Additional studies are needed. It could be decades before a spade of dirt is turned.

Given the amount of time devoted to the Peotone Airport, and the lack of will to make sweeping changes in the way Illinois does its business, there is little doubt that Illinois politicians and their employees will still be hawking the Illiana Expressway in the year 2040 and beyond.

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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.

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.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Indiana did what Illinois couldn't get done


To Indiana legislators, building the Illiana Expressway is a jobs-creator. It would do that on the Illinois side and so much more.

Instead of it merely connecting Interstate 57 and I-65, as proposed, the legislation refers to the extention of the Illiana west to I-55 near Joliet.

The Indiana legislation is a dream come true for Illinois officials who have long envisioned building a southern leg to I-355, passing by the proposed Peotone airport which would then connect it to intermodal traffic at Elwood and Joliet.


Illiana Expressway was once the South Suburban Expressway


The Illiana has been talked about in Illinois for as long as the proposed Peotone-area airport – since around 1968.

Indiana became involved two years ago when Gov. Mitch Daniels decided to fast-track an ambitious road-building plan. Daniels proposed the Illiana run north and east into Lake and Porter counties. He withdrew the extension plan, however, because of  public opposition.

Daniels' predecessors – the late Gov. Frank O'Bannon and former Gov. Evan Bayh – opposed the Illiana Expressway. They recognized the new roadway as a way to bolster Illinois' efforts to gain support for a new South Suburban Airport, (SSA) near Peotone, which was in a direct competition with the existing Gary/Chicago Regional Airport.

The Illiana Expressway, at one time was part of the airport layout plan. The plan included the location of the northernmost connector road to the facility. Since the airport has been downsized, the expressway is no longer part of the plan, however, its association remains.


Illiana Expressway, Peotone airport; both mired in politics


Just a few months ago Gov. Pat Quinn, who received an endorsement in his bid for re-election by organized labor, voiced strong support for the Illiana. He even referred to it as his future "legacy."
Kirk Dillard, a Hinsdale Republican who is still fighting to become the Republican nominee to challenge Quinn for Governor, also endorsed the project at a recent gathering at the operating engineers' local headquarters in Wilmington.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Halvorson, D-Crete has weighed in with strong support of the plan. Will County officials support it too.

Locally, the battle for governance over the airport, which has yet to receive FAA approval, between Chicago's south suburbs and Will County, is well-documented.

But dreams to build the Illiana is not without sticking points. Quinn's potential legacy may not enjoy smooth sailing. His most recent endorsement has come from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., who initially was critical of Quinn's interest in the Illiana.

Jackson favors the airport over the roadway. On his congressional website he noted that progress in planning for the road lags far behind what has already been accomplished with the airport.

"There will be no groundbreaking for the Illiana Expressway under a Quinn administration," Jackson said, "no matter how many terms he wins."