Open Letter of Nonsupport for 66 Corridor Project

Jeffery L. Keirn,PE.Deputy Director of Highways
Region Five Engineer
Illinois Department of Transportation
1102 Eastport Plaza Drive
Collinsville, Il 62204

Dear Deputy Director,

This letter is in nonsupport of the Illinois 66 Corridor Project. We, the Citizens for Southernmost Illinois, represent people from all walks of life who either live, work and/or recreate in here. Everyone of us truly loves the culture, unique natural environment and habitats, and the rural agricultural character of Southernmost Illinois. The development of the 66 corridor will provide a major impact in this special place.

The potential is real for Southernmost Illinois to have another Interstate as identified at a recent planning meeting for the “66 Corridor.” The “Stakeholders” (specifically selected by the State and Planning Consultants) are being duped into believing the new corridor will be just a two-lane road to promote economic development and provide better access for tourism. This is not how this project is described in the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) documentation (draft purpose and need statement) for this project. It is obvious that the real intent is to develop an Interstate, or otherwise high-speed, multi-lane, limited access highway that provides a direct route from Paducah, KY to Cape Girardeau, MO. This planning process is being developed to promote a political purpose that is oriented to the well-funded trucking industry and corporations and the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce.

Is another interstate costing 4 million dollars for a planning study with the potential cost of three quarters of a billion dollars to build really needed? Maybe this money could be better spent redeveloping broken economies, funding and improving our education system, and maintaining and improving our existing infrastructure (Ohio and Mississippi bridges). This is especially puzzling knowing that the state of Illinois is in major debt and the State of Kentucky turned down the project in 2005. Why would the state of Illinois think that we would want it anymore than Kentucky? The politicians in Springfield do not mind trading off our cultural heritage and the rural environment of Southernmost Illinois – the main reason why we live, work and recreate here.

Economic impacts of the “66 Corridor” are a major concern. It will continue to isolate our rural communities. The “shop local” concept is a good idea but with greater access to the major cities and increased isolation, it can only be a dream. One of our major business owners in the area stated “it will be the final nail in the coffin.” When we look at our communities already impacted by existing interstates, it is obvious that their economies are not flourishing and continuing to hurt. Will Metropolis’s Casino business migrate to Cape Girardeau, for a more convenient and fun area? Why would we want to project this fate on more of our communities?

Impact of the “66 Corridor” will be significant on farm land. If you take a 65-mile tract with the project right-of-way of 2000 feet, you are looking at about 16,000 acres. Whose farm is going face the hand of eminent domain? How many farms will be split? How many farm families’ lives will be changed? What effects will this have on drainage and the watershed? Most counties in this study area are already hurting. There is no need to lose more tax revenue.

The “66 Corridor” provides no upside for tourism. We have never found anybody that comes to Southernmost Illinois to travel the Interstates. They come to visit our rural communities (county living), our unique wineries (supported by bed and breakfast, lodges and cabins) and our significant natural areas while driving the “back roads.” I can only hope that tourism is looking beyond the illogical premise that greater access will promote more tourism. They should be more concerned about promoting and protecting our existing resources and businesses. Wineries, lodging facilities, and hunting, fishing opportunities deserve better representation. Unfortunately tourism will be degraded by providing a greater opportunity to bypass our area and increase economic isolation.

Better access to help our communities is a myth. It really means exporting our existing businesses, labor force, our Shawnee College students, our life blood to Paducah and Cape Girardeau. The idea of expanded tourism only adds to the myth. Will Proctor and Gamble take advantage of this new access to establish a new facility in southernmost Illinois? Quicker access to medical facilities only works if you happen to live by an interchange; if not, it may block current access as well as limit access by ambulance. This “better access” will be devastating to whatever rural economy we have left.

Improved safety on our local roads by providing another interstate is very questionable. We believe that most of our major accidents occur on our existing Interstates. We can only wish that it could eliminate all our local accidents. We think our health and safety will be well preserved without the Interstate.

There is no reason Southernmost Illinoisans should give up their quality of life and economy for a completely unnecessary “corridor”/Interstate.

Sincerely,
Citizens for Southernmost Illinois

66 Corridor Study Update

66 Corridor Study Update

(This is an email message recently sent to the Community Advisory Group (CAG) members. Please note, we do not trust that this group adequately represents the position of the majority of stakeholders in southern Illinois. Please visit the 66 Corridor website to view the comments received and minutes from stakeholder meetings to date.)

As a Community Advisory Group (CAG) member, the project study team wanted to send you an update on the 66 Corridor Study to let you know what has been going on and what you can expect in the coming months.

We’ve updated the project website www.66corridor.org so the schedule reflects where we are.  If you go to the website, click on About, then Schedule, you will notice the arrow has moved to the right since the CAG meeting in November.  We’ve also added our Public Involvement information to the website.  On the website, click on Document Library to view the different categories of public involvement to date.

The project study team has combined the information in the Problem Statement, developed by the CAG in November, with additional data we’ve collected to develop a Draft Purpose & Need statement.  The Purpose & Need Statement will continue to evolve for a few months resulting in discussions with the regulatory agencies in June.  The June meeting is one of the decision points in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process we discussed at the last CAG meeting.

We anticipate our next CAG meeting to be sometime in July.  We will begin coordinating the exact date in late May or early June.  At the July CAG meeting, we anticipate reviewing the results of the first CAG meeting, explaining the Purpose & Need Statement, and what role of the CAG will play be moving forward in the NEPA process.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, please let me know.

Brooks
Brooks Brestal, P.E.
Senior Engineering Manager
Horner & Shifrin, Inc.
640 Pierce Boulevard, Suite 200
O’Fallon, Illinois 62269

(618) 406-6461 direct cell

(618) 622-6834 office

SIMPO Conducting a Multi-Modal Transportation Assessment

SIMPO Conducting a Multi-Modal Transportation Assessment

As the Lead Agency for the Southern Illinois Metropolitan Planning Organization (SIMPO), a local transportation planning entity, the Greater Egypt Regional Planning and Development Commission would like to invite the public to attend one of four upcoming workshops being held throughout the metropolitan planning area. The planning area involves parts of Williamson and Jackson counties from Carbondale to Marion, including Carterville, Herrin and the surrounding villages.

SIMPO is seeking input and feedback from the public on the current status of both the regional and local transportation network as it relates to walking, biking, vehicular, transit, rail and air.

“The Southern Illinois MPO is responsible for allocating federal dollars for local transportation projects in this metropolitan area”, said Cary Minnis, Executive Director of SIMPO. “It is extremely important that we understand what is important to the people who use our region’s transportation system on a daily basis.”

The workshop format will include a presentation with information about SIMPO and the transportation planning process, conducting a Multi-Modal Transportation Assessment, and preliminary findings on the regional and local transportation network. The presentation will be followed with a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis focused on transportation.

Information gathered at each of the workshops will be compiled and included with feedback already received from previous stakeholder meetings, historical traffic information, and data gathered in the field all of which will inform the final assessment.

Meeting details:

  • Wednesday, March 19th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Williamson County Pavilion, 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, IL 62959
  • Thursday, March 20th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Carbondale Civic Center, 200 S. Illinois Avenue, Carbondale, IL 62901
  • Wednesday, March 26th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, John A. Logan, Center for Business & Industry, 700 Logan College Drive, Carterville, IL 62918
  • Thursday, March 27th from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Herrin Civic Center, 101 S 16th Street, Herrin, IL 62948

If you are not able to attend the workshop closest to your home, please make arrangements to attend one of the others. Project representatives will be available to answer questions as well.

For additional information contact:

Don’t pave Mother Nature

(Letter to the Editor of Southern Illinoisan and nominated for the Golden Pen Award. The deadline to vote for this letter is September 13th. Vote online!)

To the Editor:

We are opposed to building a new interstate from Paducah to Cape. One of the great assets of this area is the national forest and the state parks. Paving sections of it over with concrete will not enhance this. Many people come to this area to get away from the 24/7 buzz of traffic. We came here from Springfield for that reason.

When Amtrak upgraded tracks to high speed rail, very few Illinois construction jobs were created. The majority of the crew came from either Texas or Oklahoma.

Despite opposition from environmentalists, I-72 was extended from Jacksonville to Quincy. Today, that section of highway is a “white elephant” which is very lightly traveled as is I-155 from Lincoln to I-74 at Peoria. The towns along these stretches have not benefited or grown. Peoria is bigger than either Cape or Paducah and the population density is much higher than here. But it is not an interstate destination.

There are better ways to spur economic development in this area than paving over our best asset:

  • Put enough money into academics at SIU to make it renowned for academics.
  • Continue to beef up the community colleges and tech schools with partnerships for job training.
  • Begin programs to retrofit the substandard houses in the area. Make them greener and more efficient.

A popular radio personality in Springfield has frequently said the best kept secret in the Midwest is Illinois south of Mount Vernon. Advertise this area as a place to get away and enjoy nature in the forest and state parks.

Jim and Jean Todd
Carbondale

Purpose & Need Comments for I-66 due Friday, August 23rd

Purpose & Need Comments for I-66 due Friday, August 23rd

The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is in the beginning stages of assessing the Purpose and Need for an Interstate-type highway through southernmost Illinois connecting Cape Girardeau, MO and Paducah, KY. This is not the first time this proposal has been tossed around—in fact it’s been discussed and rejected since the 1980s.

Just when we thought the proposal had been securely put to rest it has come back to life cloaked as the economic savior of the region. This time we find ourselves fighting the economic interests of Cape Girardeau, Missouri for our right to protect the environment, recreational opportunities and rural lifestyle of our beloved southernmost Illinois.

Please send this alert to IDOT telling them that Cape Girardeau’s desire for a transportation shortcut to Interstate 24 in Kentucky for its economic benefit does not constitute sufficient purpose or need for the proposed 2000-foot-wide super highway through the heart of southernmost Illinois. The resulting environmental devastation to the biologically rich and diverse environment of Southernmost Illinois resulting from yet another Interstate highway in this area will have dire consequences for the natural resource-based recreation and economy of the region. There is no valid purpose or need for sacrificing environmentally fragile places like the Cache wetlands, Cypress Creek Refuge, Horseshoe Lake, the Grapevine Trail through the Shawnee National Forest, the historic Trail of Tears, Union County Refuge, or the Mississippi bottomlands to satisfy the political or economic goals of out-of-state interests.

Email  comments to: 66corridor@hornershifrin.com
Mail comments to:
Attn: Charles Stein
Mr. Jeffery Keirn
Acting Deputy Director of Highways/Region Five Engineer
PO Box 100
Carbondale, IL  62901

Cape Girardeau leading the charge in pushing I-66 through our southern Illinois

A July 18th Southeast Missourian article about the upcoming IDOT Open House speaks mostly about Cape’s support for the proposed highway and their due diligence in getting people from Missouri to the Open House this coming Thursday. Cape Girardeau’s Chamber of Commerce president, John Mehner, purportedly announced they would transport people on a bus if necessary.

Most of the ink in the article was given to Jeff Glenn of Glennview Strategies, a consultant for Transamerica Corridor Corporation, and as far as we can tell one of the highway’s biggest cheerleaders. You might be asking, who is Jeff Glenn, what is Transamerica Corridor Corporation, and why is Glenn such a fan?

Answering the “why” first — for the money, of course. Jeff Glenn is a lobbyist for Transamerica Corridor Corporation.  Transamerica Corridor Corporation was incorporated as a Missouri Non-Profit in September 2010 by Kevin B. Spaeth, a Cape attorney and John Mehner (the guy with bus, remember him?). The registered address for Transamerica Corridor is the same address as the Chamber of Commerce and Mr. Mehner — how convenient. They pay Mr. Glenn to lobby in Washington, DC on the behalf of the business interests in Cape Girardeau and southeastern Missouri for a major highway project through our state. But, that’s not all.

Jeff Glenn is also a paid lobbyist for Delta Companies, Inc., also of Cape Girardeau. Mr. Glenn’s federal lobbyist registration form indicates that Delta Companies, a major Midwest heavy highway contractor, paving contractor and materials producer, “contributes” over $5,000 in a quarterly period for his lobbying services in Washington, DC.

 

New media coverage

See two new media hits about the proposed boondoggle across southernmost Illinois. The one from KFVS12 contains some particularly interesting quotes — more proof that this proposal and the people proposing don’t give a rip about southern Illinois.

For example: “The problems of transporting yourself between Paducah and Cape Giradeau has posed problems for many years.” As always, no mention is even made of southern Illinois–it’s all about moving between Kentucky and Missouri.

Or how about the two quotes below — do these (probably truckers) from Texas and Michigan care anything about southern Illinois, wetlands, the Cache River, the Shawnee National Forest, the Mississippi Bottoms….I think not!

“The interstate is always a better system,” said Tom Thompson of Whitewright, Texas. “You don’t have red lights, you don’t have small towns to go through, and it would be much more fuel efficient.”

“I would rather be on the interstate then a two lane road anytime,” said Rob Chelemen of Taylor, Michigan. “I think it’s more safe then the two lane roads.”

The most revealing and honest statement in the piece states:

The project would be at least a four lane roadway to give semi-truck drivers an alternate route to take instead of the two lane roads that currently connect the two cities.

This proposal is all about the trucking industry, not helping people who live, play and thrive on our rural, quiet, southern Illinois lifestyle.

Be sure to attend the public meeting on July 24th.

IDOT issues notice to proceed with Tiered EIS for “66 Corridor”

The following is from the “official” 66 Corridor website. You can sign up on that website to get email notifications of upcoming meetings, such as the Open House on July 24th.

On March 25, 2013, The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) issued a notice to proceed to the Little Egypt Joint Venture. The Little Egypt Joint Venture consultant team, consisting of the joint venture partners of Horner & Shifrin, Inc. and Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, Inc. is tasked with preparing a Tiered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the 66 Corridor. The joint venture partners will be supported by additional subconsultants while conducting the 66 Corridor Tiered EIS Study. The additional subconsulting firms include:

  • 2IM Group
  • ABNA Engineering, Inc.
  • Coombe-Bloxdorf, P.C.
  • EFK Moen, LLC
  • Homer L Chastain & Associates, LLP
  • Kaskaskia Engineering Group, LLC
  • Parsons Transportation Group
  • Prairie Engineers of Illinois, PC
  • Shawnee Survey & Consulting, Inc.

Open House regarding I-66 July 24th

Please share this information and try to attend!

IDOT website information about I-66 Proposal

The following was found on the Illinois Department of Transportation website. Note the email address to contact if you’d like to be put on a list to receive information about the project from IDOT.

I-66 – Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union Counties

Project Description

The Illinois Department of Transportation is pleased to announce a consulting firm has been chosen to provide Phase I engineering services required for the preparation of an anticipated Tiered Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and supporting engineering reports for the construction of a four lane freeway or expressway from Interstate 24 in the Paducah, Kentucky/Metropolis, Illinois region to Interstate 55 in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri region.  Little Egypt JV, a joint venture of the consulting firms Horner & Shifrin, Inc. and Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, were selected.  $3.6 million in funding was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation to evaluate the most feasible I-66 corridor.  The counties included in the study are Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski, and Union.  The study, which will begin in April 2013, will take 3 years to complete and includes environmentally sensitive and economically depressed areas. The study will be conducted under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and will include several public meetings and input from stakeholders in southern Illinois as well as Kentucky and Missouri.

The I-66 project is part of the East-West Transamerica Corridor, a national transportation plan first studied in the 1980s that would start in San Diego and end in the Norfolk, Va. area.  At this time, there is no further funding identified in Illinois for I-66 past the initial Tiered Environmental Impact Statement and supporting engineering reports.

Anyone that would like to be added to the project’s mailing list may do so by sending their contact information to Valerie.Rolla@illinois.gov

Notice of Award 2011 (~70kb PDF)

Project Location Map (~5mb PDF)

Project Area Map (~4mb PDF)