Illiana project manager for the Illinois Department of Transportation Steve Schilke explained where the highway design team is in the planning process and how landowners could provide input to the project at a meeting held Tuesday at the Local 150 training center.
The owners of property in the Illiana planning corridor are sharing details about how they use their property with the corridor planning team.
The team invited input from property owners Tuesday night during the first of five scheduled meetings between the owners of property that lies within the 950 square mile, 2,000-foot wide planning corridor and the planning team.
"We wanted to get out to the landowners as fast as possible, so that we can really gather information so we know what we're putting where, and why we're putting it there," explained Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project manager Steve Schilke during a public presentation portion of Tuesdays meeting.
The project will provide a highway between Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 65 in Indiana. The federal government issued a Record of Decision last month that advanced the proposed Illiana B3 corridor ending at Interstate 55 in Wilmington and a no-build alternative to the second tier of planning, which is underway.
In Tier Two, the corridor will be refined to identify a 400-foot wide working alignment, determine road profiles and bridge types, and conduct detailed hydraulic and drainage studies.
Currently, the 2,000-foot wide planning alignment is based on the location of utilities, creeks, wetlands, crossings and other land features - but those features might not be what's important to property owners. Likewise, the 400-foot wide working alignment is more or less an arbitrary line through the middle of the planning alignment.
Planners expect the working alignment to move, based on the information they collect, including information from property owners.
"I think that what you're going to see over the course of this process is that that line will move. And I want it to move. I want it to move just to come up with the best alignment I can," Schilke said.
"At this point we really need your input on where exactly that line should go , where it should move, what should we be planning for," Schilke said.
The meeting was focused on strengthening communication between the property owners, the design team and IDOT.
Recently initiated measures to improve communications include a dedicated phone line, 855-455-4650, and newly drafted property access protocols. Property owners expressed a desire to know when surveyors were on their property, so a hang tag was developed as a way to provide past notice, in addition to the advance notice provided whenever IDOT is in possession of contact information.
Each property owner was assigned a Landowner Relations Representative, an individual who will provide direct, personal contact and information throughout the planning process - including responding to complaints.
In addition the project website, Illianacorridor.org, will remain active and updated.
There will also be more landowner meetings, including some on-site landowner meetings.
The second portion of Tuesday's meeting was for land owners only, who broke into small groups with their Landowner Relations Representatives to discuss farm operations, overpass and underpass potential and possible road closures.
Right now the planning team is involved in data collection; surveys of the ground, environment, drainage, geotechnical aspects and property lines.
"They're trying to gather a lot of the environmental surveys and data to best come up with that footprint of the road," Schilke said.
Financial studies also take place in the second tier. IDOT recently advertised for an advisor to guide the planning group through establishing a public-private partnership and identify the funding sources for construction.
There will be a public meeting, probably in April, to go over some of the survey findings. By early summer the team will have a clearer picture of where the road should go, and by fall the team should be able to exactly define the right of way limits, including where the interchanges will go Schilke said.
The planning team is meeting with emergency service providers; township, municipality and county representatives and the Farm Bureau to determine the best local roads to keep open.
The planning team will host another landowner's meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 5:30 p.m., at the Local 150 training center. Property owners who wish to attend should RSVP at the landowner dedicated phone line.