THE ILLIANA CORRIDOR Tier One Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is complete, and the Federal Highway Administration has issued a Record of Decision allowing more detailed study of the B3 route through Wilmington. During an analysis of the visual effect of construction on riverfront properties, the FEIS says the crossing at the Kankakee River is already diminished due to the presence of the high-power lines.
The Federal Highway Administration is backing the much-discussed plan to build a super-highway through Wilmington.
The federal "record of decision" issued Friday closes the B3 corridor for the Illiana Expressway, an interstate that will cut north and west of the city limits to link Interstate 55 with Interstate 65 near Lowell, IN.
The announcement ends the first phase of the planning process and begins the next stage of engineering and planning including an environmental impact study.
All other corridor routes have been eliminated.
The 46.8-mile long B3 corridor passes just south of the proposed South Suburban Airport near Peotone, and north of the village of Symerton. It clips the northern edges of Water's Edge Estates, Deer Creek and Foxtail Commons subdivisions in Wilmington. It crosses the Kankakee River near the Bobcat Junior Football League fields and O'Brien's Subdivision on Widows Road and runs near Stevens Lane, emerging near I-55 at the Route 129 intersection.
According to the Tier One FEIS, there are currently three design concepts for an interchange near Route 53. Concept one is a direct interchange connection to Route 53, with interchange ramps at New River Road. Concept two is a conventional diamond interchange located about 2.5 miles east of Route 53, between Indian Trail and Old Chicago Road, with an overpass at Route 53. The third design concept provides an overpass at Route 53 with no interchange.
City officials are pushing for design concept two, with the first toll, if the Illiana becomes a toll road, east of the Old Chicago Road interchange - so that trucks don't use Route 53 and Peotone Road to avoid paying a toll at Wilmington.
"The Old Chicago Road interchange fits us best as far as potential growth," Mayor Marty Orr said. "A Route 53 interchange does nothing for the city." Not only does the land near the corner of Route 53 and New River Road become undevelopable, but the residences of Water's Edge Estates would be very close to the road where trucks would be accelerating and decelerating.
"It would have a huge negative impact on Water's Edge Estates," Orr commented.
The Illiana project is the first in the nation to proceed under a combined federal and environmental clearance process using the latest federal highway authorization bill, also known as Map-21. Both states have accelerated the work to expedite economic development and job creation.
The expressway will reduce the strain of truck traffic on local roads, improving safety, cutting commuting times, reducing congestion, and improving accessibility to jobs. Environmentally, it will help by reducing the number of travel hours and fuel wasted due to cars and trucks caught in congestion.
The Illinois (IDOT) and Indiana (INDOT) Departments of Transportation estimate the project will create or retain more than 9,000 construction jobs immediately, and more than 25,000 long-term jobs.
Public opinion favored Corridor B3 with 90 percent of government/interest group public hearing comments supporting a build alternative in favor of Corridor B3. Of all comments in support of a build alternative, 69 percent favored Corridor B3.
The city of Wilmington, Will Township and Peotone Township, which will have to relocate its maintenance facility, passed resolutions against the B3.
The Will County Board supported the route, but only if a portion of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was used to minimize the impact on homes on Wilmington's north side. The county board also objects to the use of quick-take powers for land acquisition.
In comments it provided in November 2012, the Midewin staff stated concerns about potential for future expansion of the corridor in the limited location between the city residences and the federal property, and also inquired about the prospect of enclosing a portion of the proposed roadway to protect the natural area.
Tier Two studies, which take 12 to 24 months, will identify a refined alignment and preferred 400-foot right of way for the Illiana project.
Engineering work will include interchange locations and layout, drainage studies, and determining overpass or underpass opportunities. During this process stakeholder outreach will again be a top priority with careful consideration of community needs including farm operations, emergency services, school routes and local land use planning, the Illiana planning team says.
Funding, financing and implementation options, including the feasibility of public-private partnerships, will also be a part of the Tier Two activities. Currently there is no funding for land acquisition or construction of the roadway, estimated at $1.25 billion.
Due to the cost of the project, development may occur over time in phases or sections; from I-65 in Indiana to I-57 in Illinois, and from I-57 to I-55.
Property owners in the 2000-foot wide B3 planning corridor will be notified that the corridor was selected, and will be given information about what comes next.
Mayor Orr is scheduled to meet with Illiana corridor team on Thursday. He will be working to ensure that there will be an over- or underpass for North Kankakee Street, promote the interchange near Old Chicago Road and push for consideration for noise and light pollution mitigation near the city's residential areas - in the event that the no build option the city supports is not selected.
"The big thing to remember is that the corridor is over a quarter-mile wide and they're going to narrow it to 400 feet, and we have no idea where that 400 feet is going to be," Orr said. "... We have to find out what the next step is and what we can do to protect those impacted by the project and the city as a whole."