The Illinois Department of Transportation held its first open house for its I-66 Corridor project at Shawnee Community College in Ullin last week as more than 200 people filled the school’s gym to get a peak at what might be coming to a plot of land near them.
The gymnasium at the college was set up with displays of maps, questionnaires and representatives from both IDOT and design firms working on a feasibility study were present to answer questions.
“We’re here today to kick the project off, introduce our website and solicit input from people that drive through this project area to determine what are their transportation needs and wh
at is the purpose-and-need of this project,” Carrie Nelsen, IDOT District 9 program development engineer, said. “That’s the first step that we’re doing here tonight.”
The I-66 Corridor is a proposed route that would connect Paducah to I-55 in Cape Girardeau and is estimated to cut the drive time between the two in half, the Gazette recently reported. More than $3.6 million in funding was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation to determine “the most feasible 66 corridor” with the counties of Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union included in the study.
“I think that there has been a lot of interest in this project and I think we’re going to have good turnout at our meetings,” Nelsen said. “The efficient movement of freight is a big issue, as well as the environmental issues, so I think we’re going to see different people from all different types of interest groups.”
Cape Girardeau business owner Ted Holzum said he is looking forward to the development of I-66 as shipping product east currently requires trucks to first travel northwest before connecting with an eastern route.
“Eighty percent of our shipments go east, which means they have to travel through St. Louis first,” Holzum said. “This new route would really improve our business.”
The 66 Corridor feasibility study began earlier this year and is expected to last four years with the public meeting in Ullin as just one of several IDOT will hold in Southern Illinois. Nelsen said connectivity to I-24 is a “big issue” that she believes traffic models will better reveal. The project includes milestones with its first to develop the purpose-and-need.
“There are steps,” Nelsen said. “First, the purpose-and-need and then the development of alternate routes and then the evaluation of alternates and then the preferred alternate.”
Nelsen said that it is likely they will start seeing alternates in about a year.
Pulaski County couple
Marilyn and Alan Kerr said they were curious about the project and came to the meeting to get a better understanding of where the route my land and would it possibly run near their property.
“If we do see it built, we’ll be too old to drive it,” Marilyn Kerr joked about the time it would take to complete the construction.
No speculations were made on when the construction of the interstate might begin or be completed. As for now IDOT said its primary concern is to complete the feasibility study and hear from the residents and businesses in the areas it would impact.
“The Federal Highway Administration and the Resource Agencies issue a record of finding and that’s our step that the corridor is approved and that we can move forward with design and land acquisition,” Nelsen said. “So, at the end of this study we’re going to have a corridor.”
Nelsen said IDOT is trying to be as transparent as possible and has developed a Web site where information is available and comments may be left.
“We will put information on our Web site and we are looking for members for our community advisory group,” Nelsen said.
Public comments for the record may be submitted by interested persons in writing using the comment form provided at the public meetings, or electronically on the project web site using the comment form at www.66corridor.org.