Illiana Expressway opponents hope letters stymie construction

2013-04-08T21:16:00Z 2013-04-10T12:02:10Z Illiana Expressway opponents hope letters stymie constructionMelanie Csepiga Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 08, 2013 9:16 pm  • 

More than 100 people filled Niemeyer's Auction Barn Monday to hear strategies to stop the Illiana Expressway.

From No Illiana 4 Us, the event organizer, the rallying cry was: Send letters and more letters and emails to bury the roadway's proponents in the evidence of how strongly the Illinois Expressway is not wanted.

The crowd was told to send their letters to the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission and each of its administrators, to state legislators and related state Cabinet posts and more.

People should write letters to the editor, sign existing petitions and create new ones.

"When writing letters, remember the big picture. We're dividing townships, school bus routes, emergency responders when they close roads for this," said Pat Mussman, of the West Creek Township office.

She said tax revenue will be lost locally and health and safety will be jeopardized by the Illiana.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub said it's one more battle for south Lake County to fight and those behind the Illiana Expressway plans don't fight fair.

"They pit subdivisions, neighbors against each other," he said. "One group of property owners is told one thing; another group of residents, another."

Virginia Hamann, of Peotone Township in Illinois, agreed. She said that's one reason Illinois and Indiana property owners are now meeting together.

It is still possible to defeat the Illiana proposal, Hamann said, and she cited such a defeat in Kane County, Ill., as an example.

Lucille Justice, of West 165th Avenue in West Creek Township, said she and her husband Jeff were told nothing before crews came on their property for soil borings and archaeological impact studies.

"I saw some young people on our property digging, and I asked my husband. He said they were hunting for arrowheads. I didn't know they were the road people," Justice said.

She said they received no letter in advance nor did the crews on two separate visits come to the door. They did, however, leave big, heavy equipment tracks on their land.

"We have no rights," she said.

Their neighbors, the Derflingers, reported similar problems.

"We were appalled," Pam Derflinger said. "They had big machines come on our property and never even came to our door," she said.

They also did not receive any letter notifying them to expect a visit.

Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-7th, said he has been fighting the expressway for five years and urged the crowd to stay strong and allied.

Handouts with names and addresses of those to write were given and a "No Build" petition was passed around.

The proposed 46.8-mile expressway will reduce the truck traffic on local roads, cut commuting times and reduce congestion and improve accessibility to jobs, according to state highway officials. It would run from Interstate 55 in Illinois to Interstate 65 east of Cedar Lake and Lowell.

IDOT and INDOT estimate the project will create or retain more than 9,000 immediate construction jobs and more than 25,000 long-term jobs.

*A public open house to further define the preferred corridor, interchange locations and layout, overpass and underpass options and environmental analysis of the Illiana Corridor will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. April 18 at Lowell Middle School, 19250 Cline Ave.

*Editor's Note: This story has been corrected from an earlier version. The date supplied was incorrect.

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