(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
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.”
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.
IDOT Rejects I-66 in 1997
“We have believed for some time that constructing a new interstate-type highway in southern Illinois through the Shawnee National Forest and other environmentally sensitive areas of the state is not likely to meet tests established by federal laws.”
“Alignment is not prudent or feasible” IDOT 1996 “Constructing this highway between Paducah and Cape Girardeau would require going through the heart of the Shawnee National Forest. As we have stated in the past, we do not believe this alignment … Continue reading
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
How can any taxpayer in Illinois support a project that will provide only short term economic benefits, but will eventually exacerbate state budget woes by creating additional long-term maintenance and repair costs, which will further limit funding and labor needed for repair and maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure?
Why do proponents of the 1-66 project ignore compelling, objective data documenting how interstates harm local businesses and communities by directing customers to larger urban population centers? Why should agriculture, small businesses and individual citizens of southern Illinois be asked to accept a barrier to local traffic and a conduit for crime just to provide easier passage for those traveling through the state to reach Cape Girardeau and Paducah?
Why should the citizens of southern Illinois tolerate the permanent degradation of growing economic benefits generated by its recreational economy, much of which is supported by some of this states highest quality public natural resources and ecosystem services (Shawnee National Forest, Cypress Creek National Wildlife Service, Cache River State Natural Area, Trail of Tears State Forest, Horseshoe Lake Conservation Area) simply to reduce travel time from Paducah to Cape Girardeau by 30-45 minutes?
Considerable private land including farms, vineyards, wineries, hunting clubs, bed and breakfasts and other businesses based on ecosystem services and a rural lifestyle will be required to build this interstate, including some properties within the actual footprint of the interstate that will be subject to condemnation (eminent domain).