The Illinois Department of Transportation continues work on the planning of Interstate 66 with a public information meeting to be held in Ullin on Wednesday, July 24.
A 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.
“We strongly encourage residents to join us in this discussion,” Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider said Monday in Marion while attending an I-57 breaking ground ceremony held by Gov. Pat Quinn. Schneider said the feasibility study is just that, a study to determine the feasibility of building the interstate route while protecting environmental and residential interests at the same time. “The first step is for residents to join us at these forums and talk about their concerns.”
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. 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.
“This is a regional project to discover the driving needs of the area,” Schneider said, adding that its goal is to determine future driving needs and plan for them accordingly.
The meeting is scheduled to take place at Shawnee Community College Gymnasium from 4 to 7 p.m. and will include handouts and display boards for public review and comment. No formal presentation is scheduled as the meeting is said to be an “open house format” and will include representatives from IDOT and consultants from Horner & Shifrin, Inc. and Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, the firms providing Phase I engineering services in the study.
“The study will be conducted under the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and will include several public meetings and input from stakeholders in Southern Illinois as well as Kentucky and Missouri,” according to a statement by IDOT. 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.
A Golconda grass-roots organization calling itself Citizens for Southernmost Illinois has voiced concerns and opposition for the project claiming, “The negative impacts simply outweigh any questionable benefits for the people who live and recreate here.”
Citizens for Southernmost Illinois has collected more than 250 signatures to a petition addressed to the Governor and state lawmakers from the southern portion of Illinois requesting the cancellation of the project, stating, “We can’t afford to gamble away our remaining economic and natural resources. CSI is dedicated to promoting and protecting our rural lifestyle and the rich natural environment that is part of our home and livelihood.”
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, “The 66 corridor is part of the East-West Transamerica Corridor, a national transportation plan first studied in the 1980s, and currently congressionally designated as a high priority highway extending from Virginia through Kansas.
At this time, there is no further funding identified in Illinois for the 66 corridor past the initial environmental document and supporting engineering reports.”