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ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY (INDIANA)

Seen by many as the road that will make the South Suburban Airport a reality, if built, the Illiana Expressway will become the third major highway into the Chicago-land area from Northwest Indiana. Both IDOT and INDOT have agreed on the B-3 Corridor for the highway which will have the route begin in Wilmington, IL and ending in Lowell, IN. A route has determined and land acquisition is expected in 2014-2015.

ILLIANA TOLLWAY TOPS DISCUSSION AT CMAP OPEN HOUSE

 

The GO TO 2040 updated transportation plan is a comprehensive regional plan for all of metropolitan Chicago, but most of those attending Monday’s open house had one road on their mind: the proposed Illiana tollway in southern Will County.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) hosted one of its 12 public sessions at the New Lenox Village Hall, drawing folks from Beecher and Peotone, who hoped to sway the agency to drop the Illiana from its list of capital projects.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

A FORCE MORE POWERFUL THAN ANTI-ILLIANA ACTIVISTS: LONG-EARED BATS

 

Bats, birds and mussels are delaying final federal approval for the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway, giving Illinois and Indiana much less time to get construction of the controversial project underway next year.

At the center of environmental concerns is a proposed off-ramp at Illinois Route 53, providing direct access to huge intermodal terminals near Joliet. But the shortcut goes right through a nature preserve.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY PLANNERS TAP BRAKES

 

The Illiana Expressway’s timeline for construction has been pushed back.  It is now expected to start in late summer or fall of 2015.  This push back on the deadline is due to the ongoing consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relating to the protection of habitat and species of Kankakee’s water quality and the sheep-nose mussel.  Another concern is the funding from the Illinois failed when Senate Bill 1825 did not get a vote in the Illinois General Assembly.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

WILDLIFE CONCERNS DELAY ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY

 

New projections by INDOT state the earliest construction of the Illiana Expressway may begin now is late summer to early fall of 2015.

This all comes from a delay caused by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s concerns for certain endangered species as well as the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie which lay in the path of the proposed expressway. Because of these concerns the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has conducted consultations and has told the state it will deliver its opinion on the issue by the end of June.

Once this opinion has been issued, the federal record of decision can then proceed which will give the ultimate green light on the Illiana Expressway project.

In the meantime, while the delay continues awaiting the record of decision, INDOT will likely start acquiring some of the high-priority properties that will eventually be needed for the expressway.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: TAXPAYERS, NOT ILLIANA INVESTORS, WOULD BE ON THE HOOK (3)

When last we left the proposed Illiana Expressway, we voiced our concern about the toll-road concept.

Leave no doubt about it. Tolls are an ecological disaster. Needless gallons of gas are burned as cars or trucks slow, idle or wait in line to pay tolls, pick up toll tickets or pay them. The situation is somewhat better than in the past with the advent of electronic toll zappers. Those, by the way, are the perfect metaphor for today’s government. You loan the state $40 at a time. It electronically removes the money from your charge card while you do nothing at all. It’s like a tax on breathing.

ere.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway  Project Line and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: TAXPAYERS, NOT ILLIANA INVESTORS, WOULD BE ON THE HOOK (2)

 

When last we left the proposed Illiana Expressway, we voiced our concern about the toll-road concept.

Leave no doubt about it. Tolls are an ecological disaster. Needless gallons of gas are burned as cars or trucks slow, idle or wait in line to pay tolls, pick up toll tickets or pay them. The situation is somewhat better than in the past with the advent of electronic toll zappers. Those, by the way, are the perfect metaphor for today’s government. You loan the state $40 at a time. It electronically removes the money from your charge card while you do nothing at all. It’s like a tax on breathing.

here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway  Project Line and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: TAXPAYERS, NOT ILLIANA INVESTORS, WOULD BE ON THE HOOK

 

When last we left the proposed Illiana Expressway, we voiced our concern about the toll-road concept.

Leave no doubt about it. Tolls are an ecological disaster. Needless gallons of gas are burned as cars or trucks slow, idle or wait in line to pay tolls, pick up toll tickets or pay them. The situation is somewhat better than in the past with the advent of electronic toll zappers. Those, by the way, are the perfect metaphor for today’s government. You loan the state $40 at a time. It electronically removes the money from your charge card while you do nothing at all. It’s like a tax on breathing.

here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway  Project Line and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: KEEP ILLIANA PROJECT MOVING FORWARD

 

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants to guarantee any Illinois Expressway toll revenue shortfalls will be covered by the state’s road fund before any other work is funded. That’s his way of sweetening the pot for potential investors and getting the best possible deal.

Under legislation backed by the Illinois Department of Transportation, only debt service on general obligation bonds would have a higher priority than the Illiana Expressway.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway  Project Line and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

FINAL ROUTE DETERMINED: ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY

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APPRAISALS RATTLE LANDOWNERS ON ILLIANA

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.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

BREAKING: ILLINOIS BEGINS APPRAISAL PROCESS FOR ILLIANA

Illinois home and landowners within the projected right of way of the proposed Illiana Expressway have begun receiving letters from appraisers asking for permission to do on-site inspections.

Virginia Hamann, a farmer on the west side of Peotone, said she was shocked to get a letter requesting permission for an on-site inspection of her home and property this week because the 47-mile toll road has not yet won federal approval.

“IDOT has trampled on property rights over here for 20 years, and it started with the airport,” she said, referring to property purchases the Illinois Department of Transportation already has made for the proposed airport at Peotone.

IDOT has hired 10 firms to work on appraisals, and letters recently have been sent to landowners on behalf of IDOT requesting an inspection of their property, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

As part of the overall land acquisition process, there already has been regular contact between IDOT and landowners within the corridor, she said.

“This is just another step in that process,” she stated in an email to The Times.

Indiana property owners will not receive letters seeking access to property for appraisals until the Federal Highway Administration issues a record of decision to proceed with the expressway, said Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton. Federal approval could come as early as May.

Some property owners in Indiana have received letters asking for permission to access property for field work, such as surveys and soil sampling, Pinkerton said.

IDOT and INDOT conducted their last public hearings on the expressway Feb. 18 in Lowell and Feb. 19 in Wilmington, Ill., before submitting the environmental impact statement for the expressway for federal approval.

The Illiana Expressway would run from Interstate 65, just northeast of Lowell, to Interstate 55, near Wilmington. It has a projected cost of $1.5 billion. Construction could begin as soon as late spring 2015.

Hamann questioned why Illinois would begin hiring appraisers if the environmental impact statement has not yet won federal approval. In addition, neither state has yet issued a request for proposals for the private investment they say will help pay for the expressway.

“They’re spending money like they have it, but everyone knows the state of Illinois is broke,” she said.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

SURVEYOR WON’T GIVE ILLIANA PASS ON REGS

CROWN POINT | Lake Surveyor Bill Emerson Jr. said Wednesday he will not relax the county’s stormwater drainage regulations for the proposed Illiana Expressway.

The surveyor publicly released his statement to the Indiana Department of Transportation in response to the state’s request he not require the highway’s developer comply with every detail in the county’s stormwater management and clean water regulations.

HNTB, a Midwest engineering firm working on the project asked Emerson to use his authority to alter the standards on drainage ditches, detention basins, flood plain storage and the amount of water that can be released back into the environment by man-made storage facilities after a heavy rain.

HNTB said those standards could require larger bridges and increase the cost of the project.

Emerson said he couldn’t go along with that. “The Lake County Surveyor’s office will review any request for waivers on a case-by-case basis … after a thorough review of the project specifications.”

The Illiana would be a 47-mile toll road, which would stretch from Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. State officials are willing to pour $1.5 billion into its construction to relieve truck traffic congestion on other local highways.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

CMAP OFFICIALS LEFT OFF INVITE TO ILLIANA PLANNING COUNCIL

Maybe their invitation got lost in the mail.

The Illinois Department of Transportation yesterday named 41 people to a new Freight Advisory Council that will advise the department on how to maintain and even improve Illinois’ position as the freight hub of the nation.

Included are a broad range of private- and public-sector officials, including executives from Caterpillar Inc., the Illinois Petroleum Council and CenterPoint Properties, plus Chicago Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld, Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur, IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider and Will County Executive Larry Walsh.

Not on the list is anyone from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, this area’s official gatekeeper for federal transportation money, which last time I looked had something to do with the movement of freight. So, what’s up?

It’s strictly happenstance with no slight intended at all, says an IDOT spokesman. “This has more of a statewide focus and is primarily seeking input from the private sector,” he continued, adding that, after all, Illinois has 11 official MPOs, or metropolitan planning organizations, in federal lingo.

Of course, none of the other 10 represents an area with almost 10 million people. And none of them vehemently opposed IDOT’s prized proposed Illiana Expressway, as CMAP did with vigor, charging that the road never will pay for itself. Beyond that, it’s surely a fluke that Will County strongly pushed for the road, which would be near CenterPoint’s Joliet Arsenal property. And it’s probably not worth mentioning that the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce, which accused CMAP of being biased against the suburbs, has a seat on the panel, too.

Golly, it just has to be one of those things, I guess. Don’t you just love a good coincidence?

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY ELIGIBLE FOR LOW INTEREST LOAN

The Illiana Expressway is eligible for a federal loan to allow the states to wrest a better deal from private investors and reduce the overall financing cost of the $1.5 billion project.

Indiana and Illinois are able to apply for a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan program that can lend money at a low fixed rate for up to one-third of the cost of the project.

“The Illiana Corridor project is creditworthy and a good candidate for TIFIA because it improves interstate commerce,” Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York said Monday. “Today’s formal invitation is an important step in securing the lowest cost financing that will result in lower pricing from the private developer teams for both states.”

Each state has selected four investment teams to bid on designing, building and operating their respective portions of the Illiana Expressway. Construction is slated to start in 2015.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill., and will operate as a toll road.

Indiana has forecast it will spend $80 million to $110 million upfront to get the road built. Illinois’ upfront costs are expected to be between $450 million and $500 million.

The federal loan is important because it is money investors can draw on for their share of the cost. The interest rate on the federal loan is tied to U.S. Treasuries, which means it will carry a lower interest rate than can be secured on the private market.

Investors hope to recoup their money from a “milestone” payment from the states once the project reaches a certain point, as well as from annual “availability payments” the states will fork over once traffic is whizzing up and down the expressway.

The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation are wrapping up a final environmental impact statement for the expressway. The states are hoping for approval in the spring.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: ILLIANA WILL IMPACT YOUR WALLET AND ENVIRONMENT

To the long list of arguments against wasting $1.25 billion on Gov. Pat Quinn’s beloved Illiana Expressway, add this: “At least one lactating female northern long-eared bat” was found within the area that would be impacted by the project.

The mother bat — and the father and offspring it evidences — were cited by the U.S. Department of Interior in response to a draft environmental impact statement prepared by planners in Illinois and Indiana. Together, the states are planning a 47-mile toll road that would connect I-55 near Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Ind.

The Interior Department is worried about the long-eared bat, which could be added to the endangered species list in October. It also mentions the sheepnose mussel, the blackside darter, the blue-spotted salamander and assorted other species that are declining in population. It suggests revisions to the Illiana plan that would prevent common species of deer and frogs from ending up as roadkill. And it notes that the planned expressway could diminish visitors’ enjoyment of Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, a protected wildlife refuge.

Its most potent recommendation is to eliminate an interchange planned at state Route 53 in Will County. That interchange would handle truck traffic from the CenterPoint Intermodal Center — to the detriment of the Midewin refuge, according to the Department of Interior and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

All of this is fodder for the lawsuit filed by conservation groups that want to stop the Illiana. But the Interior Department doesn’t have that authority. Its comments are part of the process through which the states seek federal approval to begin construction.

Still, the comments ought to resound even with those who aren’t moved by the plight of lactating bats.

“The projected 2040 increases in accessibility, mobility, population, jobs and other parameters used to justify the construction of the Illiana Toll Road are very small in comparison with the No-Action Alternative, with both population and employment projected to increase by only about 1 percent,” the Interior Department’s letter says. “It appears that these changes would occur as a result of shuffling the locations of increased populations and jobs that are already expected to occur within the 18-county region around Chicago.”

Where have we heard that before? Oh, right: The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The Interior Department is questioning whether the Illiana’s very limited benefits justify the potential harm to wildlife. A CMAP staff analysis concluded last fall that the project’s very limited benefits don’t justify the expense of building it.

CMAP’s staff determined that the road isn’t needed and could end up costing taxpayers up to $1.1 billion because it won’t generate enough in tolls. Its board voted against adding the Illiana to the region’s list of prioritized projects, but was overruled by its policy committee after intense political arm-twisting.

That decision authorized IDOT to spend up to $80 million on engineering and land acquisition, on top of $40 million already spent. Bidding is underway. The project is barreling ahead.

Last month, IDOT released a “toll sensitivity analysis,” a consultant’s study that projects how much drivers will be willing to pay in tolls before abandoning the Illiana for a cheaper route. It came up with a 2040 base toll of 23 cents per mile for cars — almost four times what iPass customers now pay on the Illinois Tollway. Trucks would pay 53 cents per mile, and larger rigs would pay 79 cents.

Those are just projections, of course, but they are already higher than the CMAP figures that were blown off by the policy committee on its way to greenlighting the project.

Here’s why this is all so alarming: In this supposedly public-private venture, the public shoulders the risk. If the Illiana doesn’t generate enough in tolls to pay for itself, taxpayers have to make up the difference. If the truckers now clogging I-80 aren’t willing to detour 10 miles south and pay 53 cents a mile, the states’ private partners get paid anyway. Next on the endangered list: your wallet.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

FEDS CHASTISE ILLIANA REPORT

Two federal agencies want changes in a key portion of the proposed Illiana Expressway, a stance likely not enough to kill the already controversial road but one that could complicate its finances and spark a legal fight.

In separate comments filed this week, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency objected to a proposed Illiana interchange with State Route 53 in Will County. (Read the Interior Department comments below.)

The interchange is near CenterPoint Properties Trust’s development of the old Joliet armory site, potentially a huge source of truck traffic for the Illiana. But it’s also near the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, which is protected by federal law and which both agencies said would be jeopardized by the big road.

Both recommended the state instead “choose Design Option 6,” which calls for no intersection with State Route 53 at all.

The comments immediately were seized on by longtime Illiana critic Howard Learner, head of Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center.

FEDERAL LAW

Federal transportation law generally bans developments that would hurt areas such as the tallgrass prairie unless there is no “feasible and prudent alternative,” Mr. Learner said. In this case, he said, there is an alternative: dropping the interchange. But that “could lead to less traffic to a road that already has financial viability concerns.”

Such concerns were raised by the staff of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, though CMAP’s policy committee eventually overruled the staff and voted to endorse the road.

Guy Tridgell, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, Illiana’s main advocate, noted that the comments were made in regard to the draft Environmental Impact Statement IDOT has issued on the road.

“We will consider, evaluate and respond to all comments received,” he said.

Mr. Tridgell also noted that the U.S. EPA could have issued a far sterner formal “environmental objection” to the road, and he emphasized that the final federal decision to green-light the road will be made by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

But the IDOT spokesman also strongly suggested his department wants some sort of intersection between the Illiana and State Route 53. “We hope to see an interchange” there, he said. “That’s our preferred alternative.”

Mr. Learner responded that the Interior and EPA comments are “not a deal-stopper, but they could be the basis for a federal lawsuit. “If IDOT says they’re going to stubbornly stick with their original plan, that’s an issue the courts ultimately will decide.”

A spokesman for CenterPoint declined to comment.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

FOUR TEAMS ON SHORT LIST FOR CONSTRUCTION OF INDIANA PORTION OF ILLIANA

Indiana officials have identified four developer teams for its short list to build and operate the Indiana portion of the proposed Illiana Expressway on Friday. The 47-mile tollway would connect Interstate 65 in Indiana to Interstate 55 in Illinois.

The teams announced Friday are:

The Illiana Corridor Transportation Group

Illiana East Mobility Partners

Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V.

WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC.

Those four were culled from six teams that applied to a recent Request for Proposals for teams to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the road.

The cost of the highway is estimated at $1.5 billion, with Indiana’s 12-mile stretch expected to be around $300 million. Indiana and Illinois officials are using a public-private partnership to finance the project saying it will speed construction.

The Indiana Department of Transportation also included the widening of a 12-mile stretch of I-65 between U.S. 30 and Ind. 2, in its call-out for proposals to make it more attractive for private investors.

The Indiana Finance Authority and the Indiana Department of Transporation will meet with the teams over the next few weeks to discuss their ideas and the procurement process. Procurement for the Illinois portion is being handled by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

A final Request for Proposals will be issued this summer after federal officials grant environmental approval.

Construction on the road is anticipated to start in the late spring of 2015.

With the Illiana Corridor Transportation Group proposal, ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc. and Fengate Capital Management Ltd. would finance the project; Dragados USA, Inc., F.H. Paschen, S.N. Nielsen & Associates, LLC, and William Charles Construction Company, LLC would serve as lead contractors; Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc. would lead the engineering; and Illiana Corridor Transportation Group would operate and maintain the road.

ACS, which is headquartered in Spain, handles a variety of civil engineering, building and mining projects in Europe, South America, Australia, and the U.S.

In the Illiana East Mobility Partners proposal, Cintra Infraestructuras, S.A. would finance, operate and maintain the road, while Ferrovial Agroman US Corp and White Construction, Inc. would serve jointly as lead contractors, and Janssen & Spaans Engineering, Inc. would handle the design and engineering.

Spain-based Cintra operates the Chicago Skyway and Indiana Toll Road, as well as thousands of miles of other roads in North America and Europe.

In Isolux’s proposal, the company would finance, operate and maintain the road, while Corsan-Corviam Construccion, S.A. would serve as lead contractor and a joint venture of AZTEC Engineering Group, Inc. and TYPSA would be the lead engineering firm.

In mid-February, the Indiana Finance Authority chose Isolux to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a stretch of Interstate 69 between Bloomington and Martinsville. It also operates toll roads, power lines and solar farms in the United States, India, Europe and South America.

In WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC’s proposal, Meridiam Infrastructure Illiana IN, LLC and Walsh Investors, LLC would finance the project, Walsh Construction Company II, L.L.C. would serve as lead contractor, Parsons Transportation Group would be the lead engineering firm, and WM Indiana-Illiana Partners, LLC would handle the operations and maintenance.

Chicago-based Walsh Construction handled the reconstruction of the Dan Ryan Expressway as well as other road, airport and building projects across the U.S.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

OPINION: HERE ARE MY QUESTIONS FOR ILLIANA

I challenge Rich James and others who feel a tingle up their leg about the Illiana Expressway to answer the following:

1. How will a toll road 20 miles distant from U.S. 30 and 25 miles distant from I-80 reduce traffic thereon?

2. Enumerate the permanent jobs apart from one or two toll collectors that Illiana will create.

3. Do you recommend the use of spoons instead of shovels so more temporary jobs will be created?

4. Would an expansion of Ind. 10 accomplish the same purpose at less cost?

5. Does Illiana increase the prospects for Gary/Chicago International Airport or Peotone?

6. Will those whose land will be taken be paid for inconvenience? Will we receive free lawyers as criminals do?

7. Will property values next to or near the Illiana increase or decrease due to Illiana?

8. To what extent will Lake County tax revenue be reduced?

9. If the Illiana proves to be a flop, who will end up paying the bill?

10. Who speaks up for the little guy?

– Bill Kowalski, Cedar Lake

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

OPINION: ILLIANA CHALLENGES, RAIL POSSIBILITIES

Might the Illiana Expressway project die? With governors of both Indiana and Illinois in favor of it, and local officials in the states’ regional planning agencies recently to include it on their lists of regional priorities, that seems unlikely.

And, in Indiana, the opposition to the proposed toll road has never moved beyond the arguments that can be made against any interstate highway — opposing the taking of largely rural, family-held property; the cutting-off of some local roads; the environmental impact (lost farmland, poorer air quality, light and sound pollution); added burden on emergency services; and the generic “no one will use it” claim.

As emotionally powerful as these arguments can be, transportation planners, and the political officials behind them, aren’t going to accept an argument that can be used anywhere and everywhere to block an infrastructure project.

But arguments against the Illiana from Illinois seem more robust, and particular to the Illiana situation. That’s surely because Illinois’ financial situation is much worse than Indiana’s, and so, to the extent the states will end up footing the bill for the expressway, the issue is more acute there.

Questions in Illinois regard how many drivers will use it and whether a toll road will be viable, in the sense of finding the balance that collects the needed revenue without discouraging an critical amount of drivers; what financial guarantees it appears the states will give to the yet-to-be-found private partner; and how the states’ expenses in planning and preparing for construction could grow. In short, the fear, and increasingly the conventional wisdeom, is that a broke state will inherit a white elephant.

Indiana looks at it mainly as a relief valve for the Borman, and considers the costs worthwhile. The action has been, and continues to be, on the Illinois side of the state line, though. It seems that the recent votes by planning agencies, with strong backing from most elected officials, sealed the deal. But, at least on the Illinois side, there continues to be disgruntlement in the area that really matters — the state purse.

Meanwhile, the proposed South Shore extension will most likely avoid the parochial opposition — it would go southward into communities made for it, the residential/retail corridor of west Lake County. And the benefit of to those communities and the ones immediately surrounding might overcome the “public transportation never pays for itself” argument.

The town of Fishers has recently approved a full redevelopment of its train station and surroundings, with some public participation in a mixed-use plan that will bring residents, businesses and recreational activity to the area. That sort of activity in Munster, Dyer and other communities could have benefits beyond those towns that make the regional advantages tangible enough that arguments used against a highway won’t be as effective against the railway.

Ideally, the rail expansion will get a fair cost-benefit evaluation, and the clear difference between service on this side of the state line and the other will begin to be narrowed.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

OFFICIALS WORRY ABOUT EMERGENCY SERVICES IN FACE OF ILLIANA

CROWN POINT | Public officials made it known local emergency responders will need help if the Illiana Expressway is built.

“Our emergency medical services and our firefighters have to be our No. 1 priority,” Cedar Lake Township Trustee Alice Dahl said Thursday at a lightly attended public hearing about the proposed road.

Lowell Town Councilman Craig Earley estimated the expressway will have Lowell emergency responders going to 50 percent more calls than currently, with no corresponding increase in revenue to fund those services.

Both made their point at a hearing to take public comment on an Economic Impact Study of the Illiana Corridor commissioned by the Indiana Finance Authority. Under Indiana law, the IFA must take public comment on any public works project being done as a public-private partnership, such as the Illiana Expressway.

The study found that land acquired for building the Illiana Expressway will result in $15 million in assessed value being dropped from local property tax rolls. That will translate into about $70,000 less in taxes for townships and other taxing entities.

However, according to the study, tax collections will begin to increase as the expressway project gets underway, resulting in $40.7 million in new tax revenues annually within 33 years. That figure includes excise and other taxes paid by people working the new jobs that will be created. Net new jobs eventually could exceed 10,000, according to the study.

Consultant Chandler Duncan said almost all the positive impact will come as the result of people moving into the region. The study did not find that large industrial or commercial enterprises will locate in the region because of the Illiana Expressway.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Late in the hearing, Lowell-area resident Ed Linden said the only reason there were eight members of the public at the hearing was because his wife had called and told everyone of them about it.

INDOT Illiana Corridor project manager James Earl said public notice of the meeting was posted as required by law 10 days in advance. He acknowledged that’s not what people are accustomed to, because for the separate environmental impact study being done by INDOT and IDOT notices are customarily sent out to hundreds of people by email and U.S. Postal Service mail for every hearing.

More than 200 people attended a public hearing on the environmental impact study in Lowell on Tuesday night.

He also acknowledged no one from the IFA was actually at the hearing. But he affirmed all comments received would be entered into the public record for IFA’s use.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

ARE ILLIANA FOES’ PLEAS FALLING ON DEAF EARS?

With days being checked off the calendar bringing a decision from the Federal Highway Administration on the Illiana Expressway closer, residents objections to the project are becoming more desperate.

Many appear to be coming to the realization that their protests and reasoning are failing to make an impact on those who will make the decision.

That was the scene that played out Wednesday during a public hearing on the proposed expressway held in Wilmington regarding the $1.3 billion project that will connect Interstate 55 with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

The Illinois Department of Transportation hosted the hearing. A similar hearing was held by Indiana DOT officials earlier this week in Lowell, Ind.

One such person was Washington Township’s Ray Blomberg, who lives along Stony Island Road in eastern Will County and in path of the proposed 47-mile highway that would connect Illinois Interstates 55 and 57 to Indiana’s Interstate 65.

Not only does Blomberg, 64, live in a house that would be demolished to clear the path for the highway, but so does his 91-year-old mother, Jessie.

“Where would we go? That’s a good question,” he said. “We don’t have a place to go. I never envisioned this happening.”

Several miles west in Wilmington, David Dodd, who’s general manager for Miken Transportation, at Illinois Route 53 and New River Road, one of five businesses that will have to be relocated, said he didn’t know what good his on-the-record objection would be, but he wanted them known.

Similar to many that have stated before him, Dodd said truckers will not use the road. He said they will find routes where tolls don’t need to be fed. “I wanted to be able to say my piece,” he said.

Roads that will be blocked by the highway’s path include Ridgeland Avenue and Egyptian Trail, both east of Peotone; Crawford and Western avenues, between Beecher and Peotone; 88th Avenue, west of Peotone; Indian Trail Road and 17th Avenue, west of Old Chicago Road; and Stony Island Avenue and Klemme Road, both just west of the Indiana-Illinois border.

Officials note that 70 percent of the roads that intersect with the highway will not remain open.

The Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Study, for which Wednesday’s hearing was held to gain additional comments, likely will not gain final approval until May, noted Illinois Department of Transportation project manager Steve Schilke.

The hearing drew a crowd of about 300.

If the project is approved by the IDOT, its Indiana counterpart and the Federal Highway Administration, land acquisition would begin this summer and take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Assuming that stays on course, actual construction wouldn’t begin until 2015. In all, the $1.5-billion highway would take three years to complete.

The route of the highway under consideration begins just west of Wilmington at I-55 at Illinois 129 and runs mostly straight east to I-65 between 153rd and 163rd streets near Cedar Lake, Ind.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

ILLIANA OFFICIALS NAILING DOWN SPECIFICS…EXCEPT TOLL COSTS

WILMINGTON, Ill. | The proposed Illiana Expressway’s details are becoming more clear these days as officials from Illinois and Indiana show the proposed route – and how it will interact with surrounding roads and area wildlife.

Plans on display Wednesday at the Local 150 Training Facilities in Wilmington showed the route, along with what roads would intersect with it.

“This thing is starting to become a little too real,” Sharon Osgood, of Elwood, said. She said she does not like the idea of the Illiana being built. “I had hoped it would get caught up in bureaucracy and never happen, but now it looks like it might.”

Maps showed local roads that would cross the Illiana either as a bridge or underpass — and others that would be cut off near the expressway.

Steve Schilke, a project manager for the Illinois Transportation Department, said studies and consultations in the past year determined roads which had justification to continue to exist.

In the eastern part of Will County near to the state border, Crawford Avenue, Western Avenue, Stony Island Avenue and Klemme Road will be closed to traffic as they approach the Illiana road.

Meanwhile, Kedzie Avenue, Yates Avenue and Cottage Grove Avenue will remain open, with the local traffic passing under the Illiana.

South of Beecher, Ill. 1 — known in parts as Halsted Street — will be the site of a major interchange with the Illiana.

The Illiana will stretch from Interstate 65 near Lowell to Interstate 55 just west of Wilmington.

Illiana maps made available this week also showed locations for proposed passages that will allow wildlife in the area to be able to move about underneath the Illiana, rather than trying to cross the road.

Much of the passages under consideration are at the proposed road’s western end, although one such passage is just west of Stony island Avenue.

“They tend to follow trails, and we took those into account when designing these passages,” Schilke said.

Schilke, along with Indiana Department of Transportation project manager Jim Earl, spoke of the economic benefits of an Illiana Expressway.

The only detail they would not provide Wednesday was what some people considered to be the key question – How much will the tolls be on the Illiana?

Schilke and Earl said the two state legislatures will decide that matter, although they said the toll would be identical.

“It would not make sense for there to be differing fare plans,” Earl said. “We have to be in agreement with each other.”

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

CONCERNS ABOUND AS ILLIANA MOVES TOWARD REALITY

Residents living along the planned route of the Illiana Expressway are growing more concerned as drill rigs and surveyors make appearances on properties and states prepare to round up final approvals.

That was evident Tuesday as many of the around 200 people coming to Lowell Middle School for a public hearing expressed consternation about what happens next with their properties.

“Who pays your closing costs?” said Chris Pernick before about 150 people during public comment time. “Can farmers plant crops this year? What if the road goes in before they harvest? What then? You have to start telling these people what they need to know.”

Brenda Krepf, in a gymnasium full of maps and posters, said she and her husband are preparing to move to the north side of their 64-acre farm off 159th Avenue. The Illiana Expressway’s interchange with Interstate 55 will plow right through their home on the south side.

“We were hoping we could stay there,” she said. “We built this house with the intention of staying there.”

Tuesday’s hearing was held to gather public comment on the Tier II Draft Environmental Impact Study released at the end of January. That study will be the key document for winning federal approval. The public comment period ends March 10.

Indiana Department of Transportation project manager James Earl said property acquisitions will not start until federal approval is won, perhaps in May. Once a private investment team is selected to build the road, construction can start in 2015.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Not everyone at Tuesday’s hearing opposed the road.

Brenda Roberts said her family homestead of about 150 acres is one-half mile north of the expressway’s proposed route.

“I think it will raise the market value of my property and all the property around here,” she said. “I think it will bring a lot of business into the area.”

The bistate study group forecasts building the Illiana Expressway will raise $70 million in additional tax revenue in the first five years because of the new businesses that will spring up near it. That figure grows to $340 million over the expressway’s first 30 years in operation.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

 

EDITORIAL: ILLIANA IS 47 MILES OF BLACK ICE

The Indiana and Illinois transportation departments are fast-tracking the process of imposing the private Illiana tollway.

“Public meetings” — their usual dog-and-pony shows — are to be held 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 18 at Lowell Middle School and on Feb. 19th at the Local 150 Training Center, near Wilmington. This will fulfill their requirement of getting public input on their Tier 2 Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Why isn’t it being held at Wilmington High School? The people of Local 150 would pave through the Garden of Eden if given a fat government contract!

If the Lowell schools are closed, they’ll move it to Hebron, several miles past the proposed Illiana.

We’ll get two minutes to speak! The gun to our collective heads is wrapped in velvet.

The people of Illinois and Indiana are being taken for a long and very dangerous ride, rubber-stamped by the gutless politicians, buttered up to approve it.

– Anthony Rayson, Outreach Coordinator for No Illiana 4 Us, Monee

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

 

 

DURBIN DEMANDS FEDERAL ACTION ON ILLIANA, AIRPORT

SAUK VILLAGE | U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., on Friday told about 200 community and business leaders getting a new federal transportation bill passed is essential to major infrastructure projects such as the Illiana Expressway and south suburban airport.

“There are so many projects and so much infrastructure that need to be built in this country,” Durbin told his audience at a quarterly forum put on by the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corp. at the Sauk Village Municipal Center.

The current federal transportation bill known as MAP-21, which funded highway and other construction with $105 billion per year, expires in September. When President Obama signed it in 2012, it was the first time in three years Congress had managed to pass a full-fledged transportation bill.

Durbin and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., were asked later Friday during a news conference at the Pullman state historic site in Chicago about what the Thursday traffic pileup near Michigan City said about congestion and access to the Chicago-area via I 80/94.

“I think it shows exactly why we should build the Illiana Expressway to help ease congestion,” Kirk said.

Durbin said the issue is important because it relates to access to the Chicago area, which has an impact on the metro area’s economy and employment.

“Traffic is tied in to jobs,” Durbin said. “We want to improve the traffic flow because that will make it possible to create more jobs, which benefits the entire area.”

In comments after the Sauk Village forum, Durbin said the Illiana Expressway project is vital to ensure that the Chicago Southland’s infrastructure finally catches up to all the new development, including the CenterPoint Intermodal Center at Joliet.

“I am going to follow this closely,” Durbin said of the proposed 47-mile expressway project. “I can see it. I have seen the truck traffic. I know we need to make sure CenterPoint is a success.”

CenterPoint Properties 3,600 acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Joliet serves the BSNF railway’s logistics park two miles to the south. Companies with buildings and operations at the center include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., DSC Logistics, Georgia Pacific, Potlatch, Sanyo Logistics, Maersk, and others.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It has a projected cost of $1.3 billion. It will be operated as a toll road.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., also said getting a new transportation bill passed is critically important.

“This transportation bill is important period,” Kelly said at the Sauk Village event. “It’s critical not just for all the infrastructure needs in Illinois, but for all the infrastructure in the whole country.”

In the past, federal transportation bills funded highways and other improvements for a period of five years. That system broke down in 2009, when Congress merely passed extensions of the previous bill.

If you think you may be affected by the South Suburban Airport or Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

SIX CONTRACTORS BIDDING FOR ILLIANA WORK

The five bid teams that responded to Illinois’ request for qualifications for building the Illiana Expressway have told Indiana they want to do the same on the Hoosier side of the border.

In addition, a consortium led by Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V. has thrown its hat in the ring for the 12-mile portion of the expressway in Indiana only.

The six teams responded Friday to a request for qualifications to design, build and operate the expressway issued in November by the Indiana Finance Authority and Indiana Department of Transportation.

“The IFA and INDOT are honored to see interest from such qualified and experienced companies,” Indiana Public Finance Director Kendra York said.

IFA and INDOT will develop a shortlist from among the six to invite to respond to a request for proposals. It is anticipated responses will be submitted during the summer. Both states hope to conclude a deal by fall.

In all, more than 50 companies ranging from construction to engineering to toll road management firms teamed with the various investment houses to put in bids Friday.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It has a projected cost of $1.3 billion. It will be operated as a toll road.

INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation want the winning investment team to defray the $1.3 billion cost of the expressway by providing some of the upfront money needed to get construction underway. In exchange the investors would get a cut of tolls.

Some of the firms responding to the Indiana request are already involved in public-private partnerships in the bistate region and Indiana, including the controlling partner and operator of the Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway.

Among equity investors that are leading the Indiana bid teams are Cintra Infraestructuras, S.A.; SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc.; and Walsh Investors LLC. All three also responded to the Illinois request.

Cintra Infraestructuras and Australian investment house Macquarie in 2006 won the right to operate and collect tolls on the Indiana Toll Road in exchange for a $3.8 billion lump sum payment to the state.

SNC-Lavalin Capital Inc. had expressed interest in being a private partner in the building of an airport at Peotone when former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. was spearheading that drive.

Walsh Investors is a main partner in the East End Crossing Ohio River bridges project, which is being developed as a public-private partnership and is now under construction.

Also responding to the Indiana request was a team led by ACS Infrastructure Development Inc. and another led by Flour Enterprises Inc. Both of those also already responded to the Illinois request.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

FARMERS, LANDOWNERS WORRIED ABOUT FLOODING, LANDLOCKED PARCELS FROM ILLIANA

Will County farmers have major concerns about access to their land and water runoff issues if the Illiana Expressway gets built.

Five or six farms will have sections that are landlocked because of the route of the 47-mile proposed tollway that will run from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.

All farms adjacent to the tollway could have flooding issues due to broken drainage tiles or water runoff from the expressway, said Mark Schneidewind, manager of the Will County Farm Bureau.

Schneidewind said farmers, farm bureau members and Illinois Department of Transportation staff met for more than two hours Tuesday to talk about the issues.

Some farm property would be landlocked by either frontage roads or overpasses that will be constructed along with the $1.3 billion Illiana, which is proposed as Illinois’ first public-private partnership and is in its planning stages. Construction is expected to start in 2015 at the earliest.

Originally, the Illiana Expressway route would have landlocked more than 20 properties, Schneidewind said Tuesday after the private meeting with IDOT ended. That number has shrunk, but something has to be done to provide access to the landlocked sites or the state should buy that land, he said.

Many more farmers may experience drainage and flooding issues if the tollway is built, Schneidewind said, adding that “road projects we’ve seen in recent years, including Interstate 355, had a lot of drainage issues.”

He said those attending Tuesday’s session pored over hydrology maps IDOT provided that show where retention ponds will be located and the routes runoff water will take to ditches.

Farm bureau members also stressed to IDOT that broken drainage tiles on farm property need to be permanently fixed before the tollway goes over them and locks in flooding problems for years.

Schneidewind said the farm bureau is neutral on the Illiana Expressway but is against IDOT using a “quick take” process to obtain land for the project.

Overall, however, IDOT has been good to work with, and the farm bureau plans to meet again in a few weeks with IDOT to finish reviewing the hydrology maps, he said, adding that “we still have a lot more (areas) to go.”

Meanwhile, IDOT is finalizing the Illiana’s environmental impact statement now that the regional planning agencies in Illinois and Indiana have approved the tollway. Once state and federal authorities sign off on the environmental impact statement, a public hearing will be held on the plan, likely in February or March, IDOT spokeswoman Jae Miller said.

Full story originally published here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: FOUR REASONS YOU SHOULD HATE ILLIANA

We’re stoked.

It finally looks like taxpayers will spend $1.3 billion on the Illiana Expressway of legend as it reaches out to link Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill.

Illiana Fever! Catch It!

But before we get all giggly and giddy, consider four questions that might make you hate the Illiana.

1: A toll road to Joliet? Really?

Well, of course it’s not necessary in the way real interstate highways make life better. You need real interstates to reach Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

This road is not so much for you and your Honda. It’s for big trucks. You’ll make the trip from Lake County to Joliet marginally faster with the new road, but the Indiana share of the 47-mile road is at least $100 million.

For a $10 toll, don’t you want to go to somewhere more interesting than Joliet? To avoid charges of provincial parochialism, we’d ask Jolieteers the same question. How would a slightly faster trip to East Chicago enhance your life?

When the states commissioned the Illiana Expressway Feasibility Study eight years ago, they wanted to prove traffic would be diminished by an extra highway. What it showed, even then, was that traffic likely would not diminish on U.S. 41, but rise about 35 percent.

2: It’s that Peotone Airport hallucination again?

One way or another, political forces arrayed south of Chicago will prove with Mathematically Precise Queeg Missing Strawberry Logic that the Peotone Airport is necessary for future prosperity.

What an airport that does not exist really needs is a big highway that does not exist. It’s Existential Transportation Theory. If we build SOMETHING, then SOMEONE will come.

Their idea — and I wouldn’t make this up just to be funny — is that you’ll love this new highway precisely because it takes you to Peotone. Everybody wants to go there. It’s a hub, a destination. It’s like Disney World with airplanes.

Peotone Airport, you say?

Yes, the one that hasn’t been built and won’t unless any serving mayor of Chicago dies in mid-sentence, and the state legislature walks over his lifeless body. I think Hizzoners Daley and Emanuel actually have said the phrase “over my dead body.” The Peotone airport still masquerades as 5,000 acres of corn.

If you won’t take commercial flights from Gary, why will you drive to Peotone? It’s a trick question.

3: We need more big trucks?

Illiana will lighten truck traffic on the Borman Expressway. That was the odd theory. But when planners assessed the variables, they found Illiana would siphon only about 2.2 percent of traffic from the clogged Borman. Natural increases in traffic will put about 199,000 cars and trucks daily on the Borman by 2030. That’s compared to about 155,000 now.

Oops on the math forecast.

Illiana is designed — from the Illinois point of view — to funnel growing convoys of heavy trucks down an escape route away from the intermodal megalopolis of Joliet, the Illinois River and Will County.

So, good for Illinois. We’re happy they have so much business.

But newsflash. You do not live in Illinois, and what’s good for them may not be nearly as enchanting for you. Think what 5,000 more semis everyday on I-65 and U.S. 41 would look like.

The original traffic study suggested Illiana “would offer a speedy route to destinations in the fastest-growing sections of Lake County and Will County, Illinois.”

This is planner tomfoolery. What it might do is transform Lowell into a southerly sprawling version of Hammond. Wouldn’t THAT be lovely? Another rhetorical question.

As for you, where in “fast-growing” Will County do you want to go?

4: Is a $1.3 billion road twice as nice for $2.6 billion?

The truth is that no one knows how much this highway will cost, or who will pay for it. The $1.3 billion is a self-indulgent low-ball guess by enthusiasts. Other guesses suggest the cost could double that.

Why would you care?

Because billions spent on roads of dubious value are billions that can’t be spent on other, more necessary roads.

Which roads? That’s the right question. Just look around at your crumbling roads and bridges.

Unnamed mythical Easter Bunny-like “private partners” will help build the road, which makes the tax burden less. How much? Who knows?

Don’t worry. Be happy. Catch the Fever.

David Rutter was an editor at six community newspapers more than 40 years, including nearly a decade as managing editor of the Post-Tribune. His column appears Sundays in the Post-Tribune. Contact him at david.rutter@live.com

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: ILLIANA MAY PUSH FORWARD RAIL EXTENSION

The two most significant events I’ve seen in nearly four decades of writing about government in Northwest Indiana happened in the last couple of weeks.

That’s quite a statement. And yes, it doesn’t bode well for the region. But hey, it might well show that we have turned a very large corner.

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission last week overwhelmingly approved the Illiana Expressway in the face of passionate opposition. It’ll be the first significant Lake County highway project in five decades.

And about the same time, Lake County’s plethora of governments seemed just a step away — after years of jostling — from forming a countywide E-911 system.

Is there hope that NWI is coming together for the common good? I hope to tell you.

Before anyone decides to kick back and light a cigar, they should be reminded that there’s work to be done. And the next deadline is looming.

After the Illiana folks left the NIRPC meeting last week, the agency adopted a resolution supporting increased financial support for South Shore Line railroad expansion.

It’s nice that they did that, but resolutions are virtually spineless. Resolutions are what governmental bodies do when they don’t have the power to do anything else.

South Shore expansion from Chicago to Lowell should be next on the region’s agenda of moving out of the 1950s into the 21st century.

And, yes, it should happen now. South Shore expansion has been studied to death. It is time to acquire track, buy cars and hire conductors.

And the guy who’s grown most impatient is U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, the guy holding much of the money.

And the usually mild-mannered Visclosky laid down the law a couple months ago. He said he wants a local funding source to match the federal money he can acquire by March.

A local funding source ought to include state money and a local tax. And because there will be South Shore expansion to Valparaiso after Lowell, all of Northwest Indiana ought to pay for it. Don’t tell me that some Porter County people won’t slide over to Lowell to ride the new train to Chicago for jobs that pay 40 percent more than similar jobs here.

Settling on a new tax is a fairly dicey proposition. The General Assembly will have to authorize a new tax that would be adopted locally.

So how do we arrive at a consensus?

We need a facilitator, someone to bring us together. Because there isn’t a dominant city in Northwest Indiana, that consensus will have to be reached by committee. And that ought to be NIRPC.

By law, NIRPC had to vote on the Illiana. It doesn’t have to do anything in terms of South Shore funding. But it should if it wants to live up to its name of being a regional planning agency.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

TWISTS, TURNS LIE AHEAD FOR ILLIANA

The quest for private investors with deep pockets and the rounding up of final federal approvals for the Illiana Expressway are now traveling in tandem following Thursday’s vote in favor of the expressway at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Indiana and Illinois are now awaiting their first solid responses from investors while aggressively pushing forward environmental and engineering studies needed to win federal approval.

“The vote allows us to move forward with closing out the Tier II environmental study,” Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton said Friday.

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Executive Director Bill Hanna said, “(Thursday’s) vote was notice to the investment community that something is happening.”

Environmental studies needed to win federal approval for the expressway have been underway for two years. One of the last steps in producing what is called the Tier II environmental impact study will be a set of public hearings, one in Indiana and one in Illinois. Those should happen during January, Pinkerton said.

Both hearings will include an open microphone time where residents can make statements that will be taken down as part of the public record. Those comments become part of the environmental impact statement that is submitted for federal approval not long after.

If and when the federal government issues a record of decision on the environmental impact statement approving the project, INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation will begin hitting the gas on preparing the right of way.

“Then we can move forward with the land acquisition and that sort of thing,” Pinkerton said. “We can’t move forward on that until we get the record of decision.”

The tolled expressway would run from Interstate 65 in Indiana to Interstate 55 in Illinois. It would pass just north of Lowell and south of Cedar Lake before heading due west across the state line.

The other key to getting the project started is the landing of investors. Both states hope investors will see enough potential in the road to help finance some of its $1.3 billion price tag.

Next week IDOT will receive statements of qualifications from bidders who want to build and operate the 37-mile Illinois portion of the road under a public-private partnership. About a month later, IDOT hopes to develop a shortlist of finalists for the job, according to its request for qualifications issued in November.

INDOT wants qualifications from bidders for building and operating the Indiana portion of the road by Jan. 10 and anticipates announcing its shortlist Feb. 19, according to the Indiana Finance Authority’s request for qualifications issued just after IDOT’s.

Those shortlisted finalists will then get a formal request for proposals that they should respond to sometime in the summer. Both states hope to conclude a deal by fall.

INDOT and IDOT officials have said they will not build the road unless it makes financial sense, so getting proposals that lessen the cost of the road to both states is critical to getting it built.

Expressway investors and planners also will have to keep an eye on a lawsuit filed by three environmental groups, which allege the Federal Highway Administration erred in approving the Tier I environmental study for the expressway earlier this year.

The groups Open Lands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association allege the expressway would have a major impact on the Kankakee River and Midewin Tall Grass Prairie, endangering sensitive nesting areas and aquatic wildlife.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

NIRPC GIVES GREEN LIGHT TO ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission on Thursday voted in favor of the Illiana Expressway by a 76-20 weighted vote, waving through a massive road building project that could get underway as soon as 2015.

The vote means plans for the expressway can be submitted soon for final federal approvals and a search for private investors can kick into high gear. If the full NIRPC board had voted against the expressway, it would have stopped the project in its tracks.

“This was a difficult decision in the face of a lot of public opposition,” said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson immediately after the vote. “I am sensitive to the citizens of Lowell who will lose their property. But we really have to think of the greater good.”

The full NIRPC board made its decision by weighted vote, where each community’s representative was assigned his or her share of 100 total votes based on his or her community’s population. The unweighted tally was 29-8 in favor.

A crowd of about 300 packed the Sycamore Room at Woodland Park for the meeting.

Underlining the historic significance of the vote, Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement in the afternoon praising NIRPC for its action.

“I believe roads mean jobs, and today’s vote on the Illiana Corridor Project brings us one step closer to more jobs for northwestern Indiana,” Pence stated.

The NIRPC board took the day’s central vote on the Illiana Expressway about 11:30 a.m., 2 1/2 hours after the meeting’s start. That vote was taken on a motion to include the Illiana Expressway and widening of Interstate 65 from U.S. 231 to U.S. 30 in NIRPC’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. Two other votes on the expressway yielded similar results.

The high stakes of Thursday’s vote were made clear when INDOT Northwest Indiana Chief Bob Alderman, a nonvoting board member, made a long and impassioned plea for members to approve the expressway.

He reiterated all the arguments in favor of the Illiana Expressway but focused his most passionate argument on safety. He said maintaining the new expressway will make the Borman Expressway and other roads safer. He even recalled for his listeners the August Interstate 65 crash near DeMotte that killed four children and three adults.

“Are you comfortable with your friends and families and constituents traveling on those highways today?” Alderman asked near the end of his plea. “When you walk away from here today, do you feel you’ve done the right thing?”

Lowell Councilman Craig Earley countered Alderman’s argument.

“They are talking about running thousands of semis down this toll road (Illiana Expressway),” Earley said. “So what makes this toll road safer than yours? There will be accidents.”

Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid said if state officials were truly concerned with safety on congested roads, they would have rebuilt the Cline Avenue Bridge. Its closure has driven trucks onto East Chicago streets, endangering children and hurting businesses, Cid said.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from I-65, in Indiana, to Interstate 55, in Illinois. It would cost $1.3 billion to build, with state transportation officials hoping to raise some of that money from private investors.

Freeman-Wilson, who never declared how she would vote before Thursday’s meeting, tipped her hand with the morning’s first vote in favor of an air quality report on the expressway. When she finally spoke before the day’s central vote, she said Gary’s interests were aligned with the region’s and that is why she supported the expressway.

Opponents called for the weighted vote. In hindsight, the better strategy may have been to allow a straight roll call vote to proceed. A roll call vote at NIRPC requires a majority of the whole body of 53 for a motion for it to pass. That means the motion to include the Illiana Expressway in NIRPC’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan only succeeded by two votes.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. made a motion early in the meeting to delay the vote to another day because the NIRPC committee in charge of implementing its 2040 plan had been unable last week to come to a decision for or against it.

“We are taking people’s homes with this,” McDermott said in pleading for the delay. “We are changing the landscape of South Lake County.”

The motion when seconded led to a lengthy discussion. It failed on a voice vote.

In October, the policy committee of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning voted 11-8 to include the Illiana Expressway in the agency’s long- and short-range transportation plans, propelling the Illinois portion of the project forward.

Approval by both NIRPC and CMAP was necessary so that INDOT and IDOT could submit the projects for federal approval.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: ILLIANA A NW PASSAGE? I DON’T THINK SO

Certain elements of our society, usually “progressive leaders,” dub some naysayers to particular government projects NIMBYs.

For those not up on their alphabet soup, it’s an acronym for “Not In My Back Yard.” Movers and shakers in policy circles love to slam the heck out of NIMBYs for being shortsighted, selfish and uneducated enemies of progress.

But take a close look at the haters of the NIMBYs, and I’ll bet you’ll find the project they’re pushing doesn’t go through their own backyards. It goes through somebody else’s.

We’ve been seeing it for decades in the region’s grand quest for an Illiana Expressway.

From the way supporters of this would-be new major south Lake County interstate speak of the plan, one would think it akin to the elusive Northwest Passage. You know, the waterway long sought by early explorers to link the Atlantic and Pacific through North America — the waterway that has been mostly unnavigable because of arctic pack ice and, more recently, international right-of-way disputes.

Sound familiar?

I’ve yet to see evidence of overwhelming merit the Illiana, proposed as a toll road, would bring to our region.

In fact, the only thing the proposed Illiana holds in common with the ancient notions of uncharted spice routes and sea-to-shining-sea waterways are their elusive paths to reality.

I’ve been hearing about this proposed roadway for the decade I’ve lived in Northwest Indiana, and I’m assured by older, grayer colleagues its discussions far exceed my time here.

I realize plenty of otherwise brilliant transportation planners believe in the merits of the expressway, which would connect Interstate 55 in Illinois and Interstate 65 in Indiana.

Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn — political oil and water, if I’ve ever seen it — both think it’s a great idea, too.

But they haven’t made their case to me — and certainly not to a number of Lowell-area and south suburban residents who would literally have the new expressway running through their backyards.

The Illiana would run considerably farther south than the region’s established industrial and transportation corridors, in my view making it impractical.

If the prospects of a future third regional airport in Peotone, Ill., weren’t so laughable, I might argue — as other Hoosier Illiana opponents have done — that an Illiana Expressway would help make that project a reality, flying in the face of Northwest Indiana’s personal interest in seeing the Gary airport achieve such status.

But the proposed Peotone airport is still a series of farm fields, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon — if ever.

In the end, neither my protests nor those of the Lowell-area residents will likely matter. A major Illinois transportation planning agency already has added the Illiana to its long-term plan. And it would seem the deck is stacked for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to do the same.

That is, unless NIRPC leaders listen to some of their south county constituents.

But why should they? After all, the proposed Illiana probably won’t run through their backyards.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

INDIANA KICKS OFF SEARCH FOR INVESTORS ON ILLIANA

The state of Indiana on Tuesday issued a call for investors for its 12-mile portion of the Illiana Expressway, following a similar call Friday by Illinois for its 35-mile portion of the toll road.

The request for qualifications issued by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana Finance Authority on Tuesday also includes as part of the project the widening of Interstate 65 between U.S. 30 and Ind. 2.

However, there are no plans to add tolls to that portion of I-65, according to INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton.

Although tolls will be used to pay for the building and upkeep of the Illiana Expressway, the I-65 widening would be funded by traditional state and federal appropriations, Pinkerton stated.

But INDOT wants whoever builds the Illiana Expressway to also undertake the I-65 widening, Pinkerton stated.

In other respects, the Indiana request parallels the one issued by the Illinois Department of Transportation for the Illinois portion of the Illiana Expressway last week.

“We have had great success in Indiana with the innovation and cost savings that the private sector has brought to other P3 (public-private partnership) projects,” Jim Stark, INDOT Deputy Commissioner of Innovative Project Delivery, said in a statement Tuesday. “We’re anticipating similar successes with the Illiana Corridor.”

The Illiana Expressway would run from I-65 just northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. The Indiana and Illinois portions combined have an estimated $1.3 billion price tag.

INDOT and the Indiana Finance Authority want proposals from investors for financing the road through availability payments.

Under such a plan, investors would provide much of the upfront financing for the expressway’s construction. The state would then make annual payments to the investors once the expressway is open in order to keep it “available” for motorists.

Investors have until Jan. 10 to respond to the request for qualifications. INDOT and the Indiana Finance Authority will then develop a “short-list” of three or four finalists by Feb. 19. INDOT and the Indiana Finance Authority will then issue a final request for proposals in May. They want to conclude a deal by November 2014.

Full story originally published at (https://www.nwitimes.com/business/local/indiana-kicks-off-investor-search-for-illiana-expressway/article_3ce44051-dd3c-51af-8e75-0ac91f194dac.html).

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

RAIL PROJECT TRYING TO PIGGYBACK ON ILLIANA

A visionary rail plan piggybacking on the Illiana Expressway is gaining widespread notice but so far attracting little support from railroads.

Former Union League Club of Chicago President Frank Patton has been pitching his plans for an “Illiana Rail Bypass” to an impressive array of Indiana and Illinois officials and says he’s ready to raise the $8 million needed for an environmental study.

As proposed by Patton, phase one of his proposed freight rail bypass would run 90 miles from Coal City, Ill., to Wellsboro, Ind., about six miles south of LaPorte. It would use about 47 miles of joint right-of-way with the Illiana Expressway, have no at-grade crossings, and operate as a double-tracked “toll road” for trains.

“We are breaking the mold here,” Patton said on a recent afternoon as he spread out rail maps with the rail route outlined in red and green on a conference table at The Times’ Munster office.

Patton said money for the environmental study and the building of phase one, which would cost around $3.5 billion, could be raised entirely from private investors. As such, it would be at the extreme end of the current rush to public-private partnerships, requiring very little government involvement.

In March, Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider rejected Patton’s request to include the Illiana Rail Bypass in the current environmental study for the Illiana Expressway. But she did offer the Illinois Department of Transportation’s assistance in providing information for any environmental study Patton might undertake on his own.

The reception from railroads has been even cooler.

“We oppose the idea of a freight railroad line running or built in association with the Illiana Expressway,” said Joseph Ciaccio, president of the Illinois Railroad Association, which represents the interests of all six Class I railroads as well as numerous short line railroads operating in Illinois.

Railroads feel Patton’s Illiana Rail Bypass could steer attention away from the $3.2 billion Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency program in Chicago, Ciaccio said. CREATE seeks to speed up freight movements and reduce traffic congestion by building grade separations and other rail improvements across Chicagoland.

The railroads do support the Illiana Expressway project, which would help speed truck traffic in and out of intermodal rail yards south of Chicago as well as relieve truck congestion on local roads, Ciaccio said.

Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said the Illiana Expressway will be important for the railroad’s Global IV intermodal yard at Joliet as well as the region. But he said many of the problems the Illiana Rail Bypass seeks to resolve have already been taken care of for Union Pacific by the opening of Global IV in 2010.

But Patton brushes those arguments aside, pointing out the Illiana Rail Bypass could cut the current 25-hour trip from Galesburg, Ill., to the CSX intermodal yard at North Baltimore, Ohio, to just eight hours. That would result in huge savings in car leases, fuel and other expenses for railroads — even if they were paying a per-car, per-mile toll to owners of the Illiana Rail Bypass, he contends.

“Everyone said to me don’t pay attention to what anyone tells you, those are time savings just too good to ignore,” Patton said.

Patton, who founded a software firm in 1970 that serviced major banks for more than 30 years, has now formed Great Lakes Basin LLC to find financing for the Illiana Rail Bypass. The idea was unveiled at DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute in May and enthusiastically received by institute director Joe Schwieterman.

As for CREATE, Patton said the $3.2 billion to be spent on that program will not solve Chicago’s congestion problems and his Illiana Rail Bypass will. He notes that he sees the bypass as a complement to CREATE, not a competitor.

The Illiana Rail bypass holds particular promise for Northwest Indiana, Patton said.

First, it would help get some of the train traffic off rail routes through lakefront cities. That would cut down on the long lines of traffic at rail crossings that pollute the air and waste precious time for truckers.

But more important would be the potential jobs impact, Patton said.

He points out the South Shore Freight railroad operates tracks that reach almost to Wellsboro. That line could serve as an important back door to the industrial corridor along Lake Michigan, including its struggling cities.

That would open up new opportunities for economic development from LaPorte County to Gary, Patton said.

“Just look at all the rail ads on TV,” Patton said. “Their big deal is where there’s rail, there’s jobs. But right now all those trains just go right through Northwest Indiana.”

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

EDITORIAL: INDIANA SHOULD SUPPORT INDIANA PROJECTS, NOT ILLIANA

The Illiana Expressway will not help Indiana. Valuable land and water will be decimated or compromised. Trucks will refuse to pay tolls to use the road. Only a low percentage of traffic on the Indiana Toll Road or I-90 is truck usage.

At one time, Indiana had the largest migratory bird passage in North America because of the wetlands around the Kankakee River. To gain farm acreage, Indiana foolishly straightened the Kankakee and destroyed habitat of wildlife and fauna. If Indiana supports the Illiana, more wetlands will be lost.

Indiana needs to protect Indiana’s resources.

As Executive Editor William Nangle mentioned in an earlier column, the north-south highways in Northwest Indiana need to be improved. Ask any local truck driver about the bottlenecks and backups.

Indiana should support Indiana projects, not the Illiana which is a benefit to Illinois residents and a future Illinois airport.

– Louise Karwowski, Portage

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

IN STATE REP SEES “NO BENEFIT” FROM ILLIANA EXPRESSWAY TO INDIANA RESIDENTS

State officials, seeking constructive input from local representatives on the proposed Illiana Expressway, got the exact opposite.

“We oppose any road closures in south Lake County. Your proposal will endanger the safety of the citizens, police, fire, ambulance, highway department and school buses and put a tremendous burden on remaining north-south roads,” Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point told The Times of Northwest Indiana.

“I can’t see any benefit to Indiana,” State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell told the Times.

The 60-mile highway would run from Interstate 65, just south of 153rd Avenue, west between Lowell and Cedar Lake in what is currently a 2,000-foot-wide corridor that will narrow to 400 feet this fall when a decision is made on whether to build or abandon the highway.

If you think you may be affected by this project or would be interested in a free Sever Storey speaking arrangement contact our attorneys at any time at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.

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