I wish to comment on the recent lawsuit filed by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Openlands and Sierra Club against the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois Director of Transportation Ann Schneider, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Board and the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee.
This is an AWESOME action.
As a land/property owner in the direct path of the Illiana, I and my family and neighbors think that this is a WONDERFUL development and pray that this and the first lawsuit filed put this project to rest so the land/property owners may peacefully live their lives.
Those of us that live out in this area are fully aware that the numbers reported to justify the need have been GROSSLY overinflated, since we see the daily traffic and it is nowhere near the numbers ILLIANA/IDOT/INDOT have used.
You would think that EVERY taxpayer in the entire State of Illinois would be concerned about this project since it is the ‘Road to Nowhere,’ which will resemble the White Elephant Airport in Mascoutah, Illinois, down south.
A bad deal produced by political pressure
The Illiana means the destruction of VALUABLE FARMLAND, endangered species — both on land and in water, the compromising of the A-rated Kankakee River, the effect on Midewin, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and Historic Route 66. It means the destruction of numerous farming operations, to include their employees, numerous home based business along the path. It means additional risk — due to related road closures — to property/land owners’ Fire/Police/Ambulance protection, as well as increases in school bus time and residents’ daily overall travel time.
I could go on and on as to why this is a bad deal for every taxpayer in the state of Illinois; the local residents have been bringing up all of these points but it is NEVER properly reported.
‘Stifling’ political pressure
The CMAP Board’s vote against the Illiana was the justified vote since the Illiana clearly violates the GOTO 2040 PLAN that the CMAP Board, all the conservation groups, as well numerous communities and residents worked to create for the good of the entire metropolitan area.
At the MPO Policy Committee Meeting on Oct. 17, 2013 in Chicago, Randy Blankenhorn from the CMAP Board questioned who held the ultimate legal clout, arguing that the CMAP Board had the ultimate say.
It was obvious, being in the audience as well as speaking, that the political pressure in the room was stifling.
How dare the MPO Policy Committee blatantly disregard the GOTO 2040 Plan and violate its principals and pass it, all for the sake of political votes — which is what took place in that room, in my opinion.
Expect less, or more-expensive food
Contrary to Ann Schneider’s belief that this is VACANT land out here, it is HIGHLY-PRODUCTIVE farmland and home to numerous home-based businesses.
The effect on the food chain of removing between 3,300-6,600 acres of agricultural land would be HUGE — equal to removing between 22.3 million and 44.6 million boxes of corn flakes per year, since the average yield in Will County is 178 bushels/acre and each bushel of corn produces 38 boxes of corn flakes.
The result of this in a drought year is maybe no corn flakes, or raising the cost to up to $10 a box.
Jobs and deteriorating roadways
The Illiana is being used to try to achieve votes in my personal opinion.
The Illiana/IDOT/IDOT team keeps touting JOBS, JOBS, JOBS when in reality it will only produce 874 long-term jobs. (I question whether the studies were done properly to compile and report how many jobs will be lost, as well as businesses affected.)
Of course unions support ANY construction project to put members to work in tough times. However, they could put huge numbers of union members to work if the State would simply fix, maintain, repair, and upgrade the infrastructure they already have in place that has been let to disintegrate to DANGEROUS conditions.
IDOT and the State of Illinois CANNOT and DO NOT take care of the roadways and infrastructure they have. Hell, there are roadways in Will County alone that are in such deplorably dangerous conditions that someone will soon be killed, just as happened on Route 45 several years ago when it was in BAD shape; only then did IDOT do their job.
IDOT/ILLIANA/INDOT need to focus their energies on fixing their existing infrastructure — especially Illinois, because on their last report card they received a “D” on their state roadways.
Anymore our elected officials ARE NOT public servants representing the public and those that elected them. Instead, our elected officials use our tax dollars NOT to the most fiscally responsible use but to create more debt for the public and voters who elected them to serve.
Since when is it okay and such standard practice for government to steal and threaten its citizens with eminent domain and demonstrate such disregard for agriculture, the business that feeds their families, neighbors, states, country and the world?
Since when is it okay to steal people’s land for unjustifiable projects that are politically motivated for the purpose of election votes/promises?
I pray and hope that our court system recognizes the obvious: that CMAP Board has the legal decision, and upholds the GOTO 2040 Plan as the Illiana Tollroad would violate and destroy the plan.
Virginia Hamann, a Peotone-area dairy farmer, is a member of No Illiana 4 Us. Her letter was edited for length.