(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
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.
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.
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
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)
Feasibility Study to Begin in January
An article in the Southeast Missourian yesterday announced that the consulting firms Horner & Shifrin Inc. and Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates will be begin work on the Feasibility Study for I-66 in January, 2013. The study is being funded by a $3.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and a 20 percent match from IDOT generating a total of $4.5 million for the project.
This is the first tier of an environmental-impact statement to study possible routes and select a corridor for a 40- to 50-mile stretch of road crossing Southern Illinois between Cape Girardeau, Missouri and Paducah, Kentucky. The Environmental Impact Statement is required by the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires all branches of government to give consideration to the environment before undertaking any major federal action. It is expected to take about three years to complete.
The Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce is a huge proponent of this highway and has even hired a private consultant to “compile a list of interested parties, whether they are local manufacturers or simply interested residents who would like to get to Kentucky Lake more quickly.”
Feds Pull Plug on Prairie Parkway in Northern Illinois
And, why is this important? Because after 11 years fighting against this bad highway proposal the Citizens Against the Sprawlway prevailed. It gives us the inspiration we need to Nix I-66. You can read their story of struggle and success at http://www.sprawlway.org/.
Politicians Ride Roughshod Over Citizens in indiana
A contentious 1.75-miles segment of I-69 through Bloomington, Indiana has politicians acting like grade school bullies. The Bloomington, Indiana City Council and the Bloomington-Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization have refused to include the segment in it transportation plan. Without its inclusion in the plan federal money can’t be used on the segment.
In December, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels claimed that opposition to I-69 through Bloomington would not stop the project, even if he has to respond by withholding millions of dollars for Bloomington’s bus systems and other area road projects.
Then yesterday Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon offered an amendment to a federal bill that would give governors the authority to insert an interstate highway into a transportation improvement plan “without approval or endorsement” of a local Metropolitan Planning Organization MPO.
Never underestimate the lengths some politicians will go to bring home the bacon.