Comments received by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning were nearly 5-to-1 against building the proposed Illiana tollway.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has asked CMAP to add the Illiana to its GO TO 2040 long-range regional transportation plan. CMAP is scheduled to vote on whether it will include the Illiana into the plan, which is considered necessary for the project to receive federal funding, next month.
CMAP released a staff analysis of the Illiana plan in August, followed the release with a 32-day public comment period. Last week, CMAP released a summary of the 965 public comments received regarding the proposed amendment. Most came from Illinois residents, businesses, organizations and governments, but Indiana was also represented. Of the total, only 169 supported the amendment while 796 expressed opposition.
Those figures do not include two petitions that were submitted as opposing public comment; one was from the State Taxpayers Opposing the Proposed Illiana Toll Road (STOPIT Committee), which had 898 signatures of Illinois and Indiana residents. The second petition, bearing more than 2,900 signatures, was submitted by No Illiana 4 US.
Comments supporting inclusion of the Illiana in the GO TO 2040 plan were received from Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr, and aldermen Joe Van Duyne, Fran Tutor, John Persic Jr., Kevin Kirwin and Helen Hoppe and city clerk Judy Radosevich; there was a Joliet Arsenal Development Authority resolution signed by Walter Strawn, chairman, and Jay Plese, secretary; and there were letters of support from dozens of municipalities, including the cities of Braidwood, Crest Hill, Joliet and Momence; the villages of Diamond, Aroma Park, Beecher, Bourbonnais, Bradley and Channahon; as well as Grundy and Kankakee counties.
Supporting organizations included the Grundy Economic Development Council and the Will County Center for Economic Development.
Businesses supporting inclusion included the Scoular Company, which was planning to locate a grain shipping facility in Wilmington, Ozinga Bros. Inc., J.S. Alberico Construction and Gallagher Asphalt. Labor unions and civic organizations also voiced support.
Few governmental units opposed inclusion of the Illiana in the CMAP plan. Those that did included the powerful Cook County Board, because of anticipated job loss and the impact to the resources that support the freight industry in Chicago and Cook County. Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the "Illiana will, at best, only address a very small part of the region's freight congestion."
Will County Board District One member Judy Ogalla said the Illiana will be detrimental and disruptive to agribusiness, change the quality of life in the communities through which it passes and jeopardize emergency response due to road closures.
The village of Elwood is so opposed to the Illiana tollway project that it engaged the services of two of the most renowned intermodal experts in the country; Dr. Martin Lipinski, PE, director emeritus of the Intermodal Freight Transportation Institute (IFTI) at the University of Memphis, and Dr. Mihalis Golias, an assistant professor in the civil engineering department at the University of Memphis.
In July, reports village President Bill Offerman, the consultants and IDOT representatives discussed several alarming issues:
Based on IDOT's exhibits, truck traffic will increase by 40 percent if a Route 53 connection is created. This is in addition to the approximately 20,000 vehicles that already travel through town along the highway each day, Offerman said.
IDOT's study doesn't take into account the more than 6,000 acres of industrial land shown in the village of Manhattan's comprehensive plan, which will generate more truck traffic.
The village's consultants said the software used by IDOT's consultants does not accurately model the traffic entering and exiting the proposed Illiana. It is designed to model traffic conditions at a macroscopic level, when software that can model on smaller microscopic levels is more appropriate.
IDOT figures assume that 30 percent of the traffic generated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe intermodal is passenger vehicle traffic while 70 percent is truck traffic. According to the railroad, the assumption is off by at least 20 percent. Passenger vehicles make up only 5 percent to 10 percent of the intermodal traffic.
Traffic figures included truck trips made within the Deer Run Industrial Park, skewing IDOT's study numbers and misrepresenting current traffic flows. Elwood officials have been here before; they accepted the developer's estimates of 700 truck trips per day when the park was being built, and now count over 10 times the number of trucks using the facility daily.
Nearly two dozen civic groups opposed the amendment - not counting the Openlands letter that was actually from a coalition of 19 organizations. Supervisor Wade Spang commented on behalf of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. He reported that staff worked with CMAP on an alternative transportation study to determine how best to get the large volume of potential visitors to the prairie, and the Illiana doesn't fit into any of the scenarios in that study. Spang added that the B3 corridor, due to its close proximity to the Midewin, encroaches on the intent of the laws created to protect the natural area.
In addition, he notes that there are major transportation projects in independent planning - the high speed rail, South Suburban airport and the Illiana - when they should be planned together. The Illiana has no provision for access to the airport, and IDOT and the Union Pacific are proposing new bridges over the Kankakee River within one-quarter mile of one another.
"There needs to be assurance that all projects are coordinated with one another, fulfill the region's needs, while at the same time balance short- and long-term job creation, local community lifestyles and identities, future growth, conservation and agriculture," he wrote.
The comments as well as the staff analysis will be considered when the CMAP board decides on whether to include the Illiana in the GO TO 2040 plan on Oct. 9.
A complete PDF of every public comment received by CMAP can be downloaded from its website, www.cmap.illinois.gov.