Concerns grow as Illiana Expressway presses closer

2014-02-18T21:00:00Z 2014-02-20T19:03:06Z Concerns grow as Illiana Expressway presses closerBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Residents living along the planned route of the Illiana Expressway are growing more concerned as drill rigs and surveyors make appearances on properties and states prepare to round up final approvals.

That was evident Tuesday as many of the around 200 people coming to Lowell Middle School for a public hearing expressed consternation about what happens next with their properties.

"Who pays your closing costs?" said Chris Pernick before about 150 people during public comment time. "Can farmers plant crops this year? What if the road goes in before they harvest? What then? You have to start telling these people what they need to know."

Brenda Krepf, in a gymnasium full of maps and posters, said she and her husband are preparing to move to the north side of their 64-acre farm off 159th Avenue. The Illiana Expressway's interchange with Interstate 55 will plow right through their home on the south side.

"We were hoping we could stay there," she said. "We built this house with the intention of staying there."

Tuesday's hearing was held to gather public comment on the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Study released at the end of January. That study will be the key document for winning federal approval. The public comment period ends March 10.

Indiana Department of Transportation project manager James Earl said property acquisitions will not start until federal approval is won, perhaps in May. Once a private investment team is selected to build the road, construction can start in 2015.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Not everyone at Tuesday's hearing opposed the road.

Brenda Roberts said her family homestead of about 150 acres is one-half mile north of the expressway's proposed route.

"I think it will raise the market value of my property and all the property around here," she said. "I think it will bring a lot of business into the area."

The bistate study group forecasts building the Illiana Expressway will raise $70 million in additional tax revenue in the first five years because of the new businesses that will spring up near it. That figure grows to $340 million over the expressway's first 30 years in operation.

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