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 

In the Senate, it was a different story. State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Chicago Heights, must have been very persuasive, as forty-four senators favored the proposal. Only eight were opposed. The Senate voted in March, but the House voted May 23. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to sign the bill into law. Why wouldn't he? He sees this project as demonstrating his ability to get things done in Illinois. (wink, wink)

Quick-take powers is the transportation version of government at its worst. It allows the Illinois Department of Transportation to take land now and talk about it later with the people who hold title to the property the state wants. How can the Illiana, only a 47-mile highway that will connect Lowell, Indiana to Wilmington, Illinois possibly be considered "for the greater good." It will benefit how many people in Illinois? 

We know Illinois officials don't give a hoot about those living in Indiana. If they did, they would have gotten on board for the Gary/Chicago International Airport years ago, rather than try to compete with an existing, viable airport. Yet, Illinois won't touch that project with a ten foot pole.

They were all too happy though when Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, a George W. Bush Republican partnered with them. Up until Daniels took over, no other Indiana governor would give Illinois the time of day. 

Quick Take authority for a road that has no exact location, no money, and not much support, is just one more example of how the cart is being put in front of the horse. IDOT is well-known for that tactic; reference the proposed Peotone Aiport where IDOT insists on condemning property for a project that isn't even approved and may never be.

Make no mistake about it--the Illiana Expressway is one of two things. 

It is the road IDOT hopes will provide access to a potential airport, the one they have wanted all along. Expressways are more 'airportesque' than a green, scenic, open landscapes filled with productive food crops. IDOT has long tried to create a proper environment for the "third airport." Consider that the Illiana is just a remarkably expensive public relations scheme designed to continue trying to sell the public on building the Peotone Airport. 

I believe that is what they really want, but the reality is probably more like the second possibility. The Illiana is the project IDOT will ultimately settle for because they just can't quite get that airport built. 

There may be a third option however. Ultimately, they may not be successful with either project.

Either way, the State of Illinois should rename its planning departments. In Illinois planning is a dichotomy . 

Planning is supposed to start with a vision, an aggregation of ideas based on input from all who are affected or who want to participate. Goals are set and one by one; then they are achieved. In that manner, a vision is created by everyone, giving a feeling of ownership and pride. 

That isn't what planning means to IDOT though. To them, planning is just a term--one that is more like plotting--that encourages manipulation of whatever is necessary to achieve a goal supported by only a limited number, often times requiring numerous alterations as circumstances dictate. There is no ownership or pride. There is only a feeling of resentment. People are hurt along the way.

The Illiana Expressway has been on the drawing board for as long as anyone can remember. And just like the Peotone Airport, perhaps progress has surpassed it. Perhaps it is time to pull the plug on these age old ideas that never went anywhere. Isn't it time to really begin moving forward?

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