Metro East landowners in the path of the long-proposed Gateway Connector highway will no longer have to get approval from state transportation officials to develop or sell their property, according to State Sen. Kyle McCarter.
“IDOT is lifting the corridor protection status imposed on the properties years ago,” McCarter, R-Lebanon, said Wednesday. “That notice will be removed from land titles, freeing up property owners to use their property as they wish.”
McCarter likened the restrictions on the property to a bank account on which a person would be unable to realize earned interest.
“If a person’s assets were held in a bank account and the state told them, ‘You can’t gain any interest on your account unless you come to the state for approval,’ we would think that is crazy,” said McCarter. “Yet, that’s essentially what the state did by freezing the value of their property for a decade with the protected corridor status.”
McCarter said a notice about the abolition of the Protected Corridor status was issued by IDOT Secretary Randall Blackenhorn:
“Pursuant to the authority granted to the Illinois Department of Transportation in Section 4-510 of the Illinois Highway Code (605 ILCS 5/4-510), the protection afford by the Corridor Protection Map for the proposed FAP 888 – Gateway Connector from Troy, Illinois to Columbia, Illinois through Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties, which was approved by the Illinois Department of Transportation on March 9, 2005, is hereby abolished.”
The decision by the state comes almost two years after a series of in-person and online, open-house hearings – which solicited comments and testimony from citizens from both sides of the Mississippi River.
Richard Ellerbrake, the spokesperson for Citizens for Smart Growth: Stop 158 is pleased IDOT is lifting the corridor protection status.
“We’ve had good dialogue with IDOT for years, so we appreciate the interchange, and glad they finally decided this is the right step to take,” said Ellerbrake. “It’ll provide a good deal of relief on our members who’ve been working on this for about 16 years.”
In 2011, McCarter introduced and passed a law – with statewide implications – requiring public hearings to discuss the viability and feasibility of a protected corridor. The hearings had to be held not more than 10 years after a corridor is established. The law further stated, IDOT would be required to give due consideration to any information obtained at the hearing, which could include the feasibility of such a project.
“The law gave the people a voice,” said McCarter. “It prompted the state to listen. I think it played a big role in the process that led to this decision. I wish the process could have developed faster, but I’m happy with the outcome.”
Citizens for Smart Growth: Stop 158 used the new law to submit reams of documentation that Ellerbrake characterized as a kind of dissertation. The 2011 law, which then-Gov. Pat Quinn signed, also stated that if IDOT determined that construction of the roadway was no longer feasible, the protected corridor would be abolished.
“I think it will be a great relief for the people who live within the corridor who feel they can look to the future with some assurance now and not have to hold back on doing things they might have otherwise put off,” said Ellerbrake. “We appreciate the fact the people have been heard and there’s been a responsible action on the part of government.”
“Removing the protected corridor status is good news. It was a long fight,” said McCarter. “We had to introduce legislation to address the property owners’ concerns. IDOT conducted the reviews and held hearings allowing the citizens to testify. Happily, state government listened.”
— From the Illinois Business Journal