Citizen response to article in The Southern

The following is a response to the March 13th article in The Southern about the so-called Shawnee Parkway by Daniel Silver, southern Illinois resident.

According to the article in the Southern Illinoisan, ” Proponents of adding a route say it would improve local access and roadways, including access for business and tourism, improve safety and provide efficient movement of goods through the region.  . . . The other east-west roads are county roads and were not constructed to move people, goods or services at higher speeds.”

Exactly how would such a roadway improve local access? As I understand it, they are proposing a high-speed highway designed to expedite travel from Paducah, Kentucky to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, at a location that does not pass through or any closer to Anna or any other local city that is currently passed through by passers-through. Even if there is a convenient exit from such a new highway, it would not make traveling to or through such Illinois cities any more convenient than it is right now. It would not improve access to business and tourism in Illinois.

I also fail to see how a high speed roadway improves safety.

I suppose it is possible that such a highway would provide efficient movement of goods through the region, but not to the benefit of Illinois.

Daniel Silver

 

But wouldn’t building a new Parkway create jobs?

Obviously, building a new highway would create some nice construction jobs. But so would spending the same tax dollars on any number of other, much worthier infrastructure projects in Southern Illinois. The same government dollars spent on renovating existing roadways and bridges would create just as many construction jobs as this project. The same government dollars spent on other infrastructure projects, such as improving and expanding passenger and other rail service in our state, could create even more quality jobs. For example, according to Smart Growth America, “investments in public transportation generate 31% more jobs per dollar than new construction of roads and bridges.”

We are all in favor of seeing more government funds devoted to job-creating improvements to our decaying transportation infrastructure in Southern Illinois. But the issue is not whether we should devote some funds to upgrading our infrastructure. The issue is what we should spend our limited tax dollars on – what would be the wisest choices? There are plenty of better choices for creating good-paying jobs than ramming a boondoggle project through the heart of Southern Illinois.

According to the Illinois section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), infrastructure in Illinois has an overall grade of C- in quality. This includes grades of C for rail, C- for drinking water, D+ (meaning “poor, at risk”) for roads, public transit and wastewater and D- for navigable water. The ASCE report card for Illinois notes that our state’s navigable waterway system was built in the 1930s with a 50-year design life and is now in desperate need of upgrades, rehabilitation, and repair. Many wastewater management systems in Illinois are more than 100 years old. Currently, the EPA estimates that Illinois must invest $17.5 billion over the next 20 years to replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demands. And while our drinking water systems aren’t quite as bad off, a grade of C- for something so essential to human health as clean water is unacceptable.

Even if we just look at roads and bridges: 42 percent of Illinois’ major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. 16 percent of Illinois’ bridges are classified as structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Driving on these roads costs Illinois motorists $3.7 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. While congestion may be an issue in northern Illinois, the main issue in Southern Illinois is road quality. We need to spend our transportation dollars taking better care of the roads we have and improving rail transit throughout the state, not spending our limited funds on unnecessary new highways.

Finally – and equally important – we have to consider the long-term impact on employment if a Shawnee Parkway is built. Think about it: Would it really benefit the Southern Illinois economy to build a highway that makes it faster for motorists to zip past Southern Illinois on their way to Cape Girardeau or Paducah (or Louisville, Nashville or St. Louis)? Part of the attraction of Southern Illinois is its rural beauty and its wilderness – our forests, public recreation areas, wineries, hunting and fishing – appealing to people who want to escape the urban environment. Replacing picturesque country roadways and state highways with a four-lane speedway will kill some of the charm. It would likely hurt rather than help Southern Illinois tourism. It would likely hurt, rather than help, towns that are bypassed, and property values in the affected communities. While some special interests might benefit from the Parkway, Southern Illinoisans as a whole are much more likely to be worse off economically, as well as in their quality of life, if the Parkway is built.

Project and Need Statement Comments

Comments on the Shawnee Project Purpose and Need Statement were originally due at the end of January. But, after receiving numerous complaints that the notification for comments was inadequate, IDOT extended the comment period to March 15, 2016. But, wait, is that the new deadline?

A January 25 email sent to the CSI Community Advisory Group representative leaves one wondering — see below:

“On January 07, 2016 a press release was issued stating that the Draft Purpose and Need would be available on the website.   It has since been revised and on January 12, 2016 the Department posted the revised Draft Purpose and Need on the website.

“To date we have received meaningful comments on the Purpose and Need and plan to revise the document again.  We received one comments that suggested an Origin and Destination study is needed and we agree.  Since the Origin and Destination study will take several months, the deadline for review of the Draft Purpose and Need document will be extended to March 15, 2016.  Once the revised Purpose and Need document is ready, it will be posted on the website for a public comment period.  As usual, it is our goal to provide the public with adequate time to review the projects documents. ”

So we ask, what is the timeline for commenting? One place it says March 15. But, it also says IDOT intends to revise the P&N with an Origin and Destination Study, which will take several months, and that the revised P&N will be posted on the website for public comment. Last time we looked at a calendar March 15 was only one and half months from the date of IDOT email.

Furthermore, a recent television report claimed the comment deadline was indefinite.

 

Online Petition

Sign the Petition

Image 2Let our public officials know that you are concerned with protecting a quality lifestyle for Southern Illinois. Tell them you disagree with the purpose, planning and development of the Shawnee Parkway Project, a proposed 4-lane limited access highway that would cut through Alexander, Pulaski and Union counties in order to connect Interstate 57 to the Intersection of IL Route 3 and IL Route 146. They need to hear from you that the purported benefits are questionable and the construction of the highway will have negative effects on the quality of life in affected and surrounding counties.

Sign the online petition today, and tell your friends.

Shawnee Parkway project finally announced in the Federal Register

On November 25,  2015 the Federal Highway Department finally issued a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register for the Shawnee Parkway. See the notice below. A couple interesting things to note:

The NOI states that IDOT will hold a public scoping meeting on December 3rd, but no details with time or place are given. The NOI was filed on November 19th but not published until the 25th, one day before the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday. This essentially prevents the public from contacting anyone at IDOT until Monday, November 30th, just 4 days before the alleged scoping meeting.

Federal Register/Vol. 80, No. 227/Wednesday, November 25, 2015/Notices 73871

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Highway Administration Environmental Impact Statement: Alexander, Pulaski, and Union Counties, Illinois

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT. ACTION: Notice of intent.

SUMMARY: The FHWA is issuing this notice to advise the public that an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will be prepared for the Shawnee Parkway Project in Alexander, Pulaski, and Union Counties, Illinois.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Catherine A. Batey, Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, 3250 Executive Park Drive, Springfield, Illinois 62703. Phone: (217) 492–4600. Jeffrey L. Keirn, PE., Deputy Director of Highways, Region Five Engineer, Illinois Department of Transportation, State Transportation Building, 2801 W. Murphysboro, P.O. Box 100, Carbondale, Illinois 62903, (618) 549– 2171.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The FHWA, in cooperation with Illinois Department of Transportation, will prepare an EIS for the Shawnee Parkway project. The anticipated termini are the intersection of Illinois Route 3 with Illinois Route 146 and Interstate 57. The project study area includes portions of the following counties: Alexander, Pulaski, and Union in Illinois. The study area covers approximately 350 square miles.

The EIS for the Shawnee Parkway is being conducted to evaluate the need for improved transportation between the anticipated termini within the study area. The EIS will complete an analysis of transportation alternative(s) in the study area and evaluate environmental impacts based on field investigations, transportation studies, economic impact studies, and cost analysis.

Alternatives assessed will seek to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts to resources in the project area. In accordance with IDOT policies, the project is being developed using Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) as a basis for a stakeholder outreach program.  A scoping meeting will be held on December 3, 2015.

A range of alternatives will be developed and evaluated, including but not limited to: Taking no action, existing roadway improvements, and new roadways on new location. The Stakeholder Involvement Plan (SIP), which will satisfy the 23 U.S.C. Section 139 requirements for a coordination plan, will be developed to ensure that a full range of issues related to this proposed project are identified and addressed. The SIP provides meaningful opportunities for all stakeholders to participate in defining transportation issues and solutions for the study area.

Comments or questions concerning this proposed action and the EIS are invited from all interested parties and should be directed to the FHWA at the address provided above or the following Web site: www.shawneeparkway.org.

A public hearing will be held after the Draft EIS is published and made available for public and agency review. Public notice will be given of the time and place of public meetings and hearings.

The EIS will conclude with a Record of Decision selecting either a no-build or a preferred alternative.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 20.205, Highway Research, Planning and Construction. The regulations implementing Executive Order 12372 regarding intergovernmental consultation on Federal programs and activities apply to this program)

Issued on: November 19, 2015.

Catherine A. Batey,

Division Administrator, Federal Highway Administration, Springfield, Illinois.

“Shawnee Parkway” (a.k.a. I-66, 66 Corridor) Project Announced

On August 6, 2015 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published the following announcement (below) in the Federal Register canceling the 66 Corridor Project. Then a few weeks later the engineers facilitating the public meetings for the 66 Corridor Project announced (in error) that the project was on “hold” (it’s been cancelled) and that IDOT was starting a new, smaller Shawnee Parkway Project. The Notice of Intent for the Shawnee Parkway Project is still under review at IDOT and has not been sent to FHWA for publication in the Federal Register. Without an official project it seems quite strange that the engineering firm has already set a date for a Community Advisory Group (CAG) meeting on October 21sth to discuss the Shawnee Parkway Project.

The new (unofficial) proposal according to Horner & Shifrin, Inc. is to “study a transportation improvement between the Cape Tee at IL 3/ 146 and Interstate 57 through Pulaski, Alexander, and Union Counties in Illinois.”

The Shawnee Parkway Project! Does IDOT think if they greenwash the name enough we’ll not notice?

Federal Register Vol. 80, No. 151 / Thursday, August 6, 2015 / Notices 

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Highway Administration
Environmental Impact Statement:
Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski,
and Union Counties, Illinois; Ballard
and McCracken Counties, Kentucky;
and Cape Girardeau, Scott, and
Mississippi Counties, Missouri
AGENCY: Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of intent.
SUMMARY: The FHWA is issuing this
notice to advise the public that a Tier 1
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
will not be prepared for the 66 Corridor
Project in Alexander, Johnson, Massac,
Pulaski, and Union Counties, Illinois;
Ballard and McCracken Counties,
Kentucky; and Cape Girardeau, Scott,
and Mississippi Counties, Missouri.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The
FHWA, in cooperation with the Illinois
Department of Transportation (IDOT),
published a notice of intent to prepare
a Tier 1 EIS in the Federal Register
dated May 21, 2014 (Volume 79,
Number 98, pp. 29261–29262) to
evaluate the need for an improved
transportation system between Paducah,
Kentucky and I–55 in Missouri.
The project is being cancelled and no
further activities will occur for the 66
Corridor Project at this time.
Comments or questions concerning
this notice should be directed to FHWA
or IDOT at the addresses provided
above.

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