Courtesey of The Daily Journal
by Lee Provost
Peotone Mayor Rich Duran calls the development of the Illiana Expressway “progress”.
Will County Board member Judy Ogalla calls it “misguided”.
Their opinions about the proposed road come in the aftermath of Thursday’s 11-8 vote by the policy committee of the Chicago metropolitan Agency for Planning, a vote that provided perhaps the largest step forward for the project in years.
“We cannot continue to build and pave our farmland,” said Ogalla, who represents Will County’s eastern region. “Will County will no longer to be known for agriculture, and that’s sad. This was a very disappointing day. I know the pain people will go through. It’s very sad.”
Studies by the Illiana Corridor Committee have said the $1.3 billion, 47 mile expressway, in which a significant portion would run about two miles north of the Will-Kankakee county line, would consume 3,008 to 3,334 acres of farmland, 157 to 170 acres of forest, 70 to 72 acres of wetlands and 14 to 15 miles of stream.
“People have to realize that in the name of progress, things happen,” Duran said. “The roads we have now are not made for these trucks and this kind of traffic. It will only get worse if we don’t do something now.”
Opponents to the project say the state can’t maintain the roads it has now. Proponents say the region only will experience more traffic, particularly truck traffic, as intermodals continue to develop in the region.
Mike Van Mill, Kankakee County planning director and CEO/president of the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County, said the loss of farmland is regrettable.
But, he said, “we have to have the necessary infrastructure that allows us to grow and develop. This is a needed project for the region. We musts have reliable transportation and access to it. Then it’s up to us to use it the best way we can. This puts us in an extremely great position.”
“In the end, this will benefit more people than it will hurt,” said John Greuling, president/CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development. “This is a defining moment for the region. This will have such long-term implications. This will literally change the face of the region. … It will spur growth, but it won’t happen right away.”
The project still much be approved by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and OK’s by the federal transportation department.
The fact gives opponents such as Peotone Township’s Virginia Hamann a flicker of hope.
“We will continue to fight,” she said. “It still has to go through the feds. We now appeal to the feds.”