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.
Citizens for Southernmost Illinois