Illinois home and landowners within the projected right of way of the proposed Illiana Expressway have begun receiving letters from appraisers asking for permission to do on-site inspections.
Virginia Hamann, a farmer on the west side of Peotone, said she was shocked to get a letter requesting permission for an on-site inspection of her home and property this week because the 47-mile toll road has not yet won federal approval.
"IDOT has trampled on property rights over here for 20 years, and it started with the airport," she said, referring to property purchases the Illinois Department of Transportation already has made for the proposed airport at Peotone.
IDOT has hired 10 firms to work on appraisals, and letters recently have been sent to landowners on behalf of IDOT requesting an inspection of their property, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.
As part of the overall land acquisition process, there already has been regular contact between IDOT and landowners within the corridor, she said.
"This is just another step in that process," she stated in an email to The Times.
Indiana property owners will not receive letters seeking access to property for appraisals until the Federal Highway Administration issues a record of decision to proceed with the expressway, said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton. Federal approval could come as early as May.
Some property owners in Indiana have received letters asking for permission to access property for field work, such as surveys and soil sampling, Pinkerton said.
IDOT and INDOT conducted their last public hearings on the expressway Feb. 18 in Lowell and Feb. 19 in Wilmington, Ill., before submitting the environmental impact statement for the expressway for federal approval.
The Illiana Expressway would run from Interstate 65, just northeast of Lowell, to Interstate 55, near Wilmington. It has a projected cost of $1.5 billion. Construction could begin as soon as late spring 2015.
Hamann questioned why Illinois would begin hiring appraisers if the environmental impact statement has not yet won federal approval. In addition, neither state has yet issued a request for proposals for the private investment they say will help pay for the expressway.
"They're spending money like they have it, but everyone knows the state of Illinois is broke," she said.