Some landowners along the proposed Illiana toll road said the state jumped the gun when it sent letters saying their property would be appraised in the next 30 days.
The project doesn’t have the federal stamp of approval, or “record of decision,” that is expected by May 30.
Ten appraisal firms are working with the Illinois Department of Transportation to acquire some 350 parcels, said IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller.
“This is just part of the appraisal process. We will not be making any final offers until we receive a final Record of Decision,” Miller said via email.
“They say they won’t do that with the Illiana Corridor, but will they?” said Will County board member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, whose property IDOT needs for a proposed south suburban airport in Peotone.
The state has bought 85 parcels, totaling over 3,300 acres, for the airport near the toll road before receiving formal approval from the federal government. IDOT has spent $47,888,945 acquiring the property.
The airport master plan is still under review by the Federal Aviation Administration and the environmental impact study is ongoing.
The state’s quick acquisition of property for the airport has rattled some landowners along the proposed toll road.
One appraisal letter, received by Virginia Hamann, a dairy farmer in Peotone Township, said the William H. Metz firm would be inspecting her property within 30 days.
“Over my dead body,” said Hamann, who is leading the No Illiana 4 Us group in opposition to the project to build a new 47-mile tollway from I-55 in Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Ind.
Hamann said she will not let anyone on her property without a court order.
“This is bullying and intimidation by IDOT and it needs to stop,” she said, adding that the corridor’s route has not been finalized and there is no federal approval yet.
“Would IDOT treat their own grandparents like this? This is absolutely disgusting,” she said.
“I didn’t think they would appraise it until after they got the OK,” said Alan Brown, who could lose his home and 10-acre site in Wilton Center. With depressed property values now, he said he will not get his money of his property, which he purchased in 1990.
The unemployed construction worker said he is having a “hard time right now” and doesn’t have money for an attorney.
“I would rather do it and get it over with,” Brown said of the pending sale of his land. “It’s been (talked about for) two years. It’s aggravating. At least my property is being taken. I won’t have to live next to (the tollway).”
Once IDOT gets federal approval, it will make formal offers via certified mail between June 2014-15, said Mike Hansen, the ombudsman hired by the state to work with landowners, at a meeting in Peotone earlier this month.
Landowners who want to make a counteroffer should get their own appraisal, he told them.
They have the right not to have an appraiser on their property, but Hansen said, “Many times it helps if the owner is there to point out certain features. The appraiser wants to see everything about your property.”
A meeting on protecting property rights will be at 6:30 p.m. April 7 at the Peotone American Legion Hall, sponsored by No Illiana 4 Us.
Construction could begin in spring 2015 and the road would take three years to complete.
It is being financed through a public-private partnership.
IDOT has announced four finalists that can bid on the Illinois portion of the project:
—Illiana West Mobility Partners, with equity member Cintra Infraestructuras SA and lead contractors Ferrovial Agroman US Corp. and White Construction Inc.
—Illinois Corridor Connection Group, with equity members ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. and Fengate Capital Management Ltd., and lead contractors Dragados USA Inc., F.H. Paaschen, S.N. Nielson and Associates LLC, and William Charles Construction Co.
—Illinois Mobility Partners, with equity members Fluor Enterprises Inc. and Plenary Group USA Ltd. With lead contractor Illinois Mobility Constructors, which includes Fluor Enterprises, Lane Construction Corp. and Granite Construction Co.
—WM Illinois-Illiana Partners LLC with equity members Meridiam Infrastructure Illiana LLC and Walsh Investors LLC and lead contractor Walsh Construction Co. IL.
The selected team will design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Illinois portion of the Illiana tollway, according to IDOT. They will each make a presentation at an April 3 forum for disadvantaged business enterprises and small businesses that are interested in working on the project.
Meanwhile, there is a pending lawsuit that claims the Federal Highway Administration violated federal law by approving the environmental study. The complaint, filed in July 2013 by the Environmental Law and Policy Center on behalf of Openlands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association, says that IDOT and the Indiana Department of Transportation failed to establish the need for the road and properly evaluate alternatives to the proposed tollway route. The study was based on inflated population and employment projections and failed to thoroughly evaluate how the tollway would impact state and federally protected natural resources, the lawsuit claimed.
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