OLYMPIA FIELDS | State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, plans to propose a resolution in November creating an independent ombudsman to oversee landowners’ needs and legal rights in the construction of the Illiana Expressway, her office announced Friday.
The ombudsman would be appointed through the Will County state’s attorney’s office and funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation, according to a news release. The person would serve as a confidential, independent intermediary between property owners whose property is being sought for the Illiana Expressway Corridor and IDOT.
“Both Indiana and Illinois Departments of Transportation chose a preferred route for the expressway,” Hutchinson said. “They will be submitting their plan to the Federal Highway Administration. We’re getting closer to a route. That being said, some communities will be affected more by the construction than others, and they should know exactly what their rights are.”
The Illiana Expressway will link Interstate 55 in Will County with Interstate 65 in Northwest Indiana. Legislation authorized IDOT to use quick-take power to acquire the necessary land.
The Illiana Expressway is seen as a vital economic driver in the far south and southwest suburbs, the news release states. It is expected to bring in more than $6 billion in investment over a 30-year period. Construction should create up to 4,300 construction jobs and 13,800 long-term jobs in northeastern Illinois.
"IDOT is serious about evaluating input from all stakeholders along the proposed Illiana Expressway," said Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. "By using objective, fair-market models, and allowing an independent analysis of property ownership and assistance on this historic project, we can arrive at feasible and equitable solutions. An ombudsman for property owners can help us ensure that all voices are heard."
Hutchinson says she will file a resolution when the lawmakers convene in November.
“There are so many factors in this process: understanding your rights as property owners, relocation assistance, appraisals and negotiations,” Hutchison said. “There needs to be a body that acts independently to moderate between the state and the people impacted, so they know what they can ask for and get what they deserve.”