Photo by David Colburn
A view from the Morrison connector road of the water basins created as a result of recent flooding. Residents on Breckenridge Street and the surrounding Tank Town community of Pontoon Beach claim the flooding was exacerbated by the creation of the road and the resulting wetland mitigation project, preventing runoff from receding back into fields over time.
Matt Rice, district director for U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, toured Pontoon Beach March 21 with the Breckenridge Street Group to survey a controversial safety road opened in December.
The Morrison connector road has been associated by residents with recent flooding issues and water damage along Breckenridge Street in Pontoon Beach and the nearby Tank Town community.
“I’m still in the information-gathering stage,” Rice said. “There are always issues in flood plains,” adding a goal of Rice’s tour was “to find out how the road affects drainage and runoff.”
On Aug. 26, 2013, the creation of a connector road that spanned east of the railroad from Morrison Road to Pontoon Road was approved by the Madison County Board to ensure the free flow and safety of traffic following the closing of the original Morrison Road by the Alton and Southern Railway Company in 2012.
A Jan. 14, 2013, Chouteau Township resolution explains Morrison Road is “an important artery for the use of emergency vehicles, including law enforcement, fire protection and medical services” and its initial closing proved detrimental to those residing on the east side of the railroad crossing.
A subsequent request was submitted to the Illinois Commerce Commission on behalf of the village of Pontoon Beach concerning how long the rail company could block the Morrison Road grade crossing and proposing the “consideration of an overpass to be constructed” over the railroad tracks at the road.
Madison County Board member Helen Hawkins has been a vocal opponent of the safety road since its approval. She explains the initially proposed overpass would have yielded different results for residents of Breckenridge Street and the Tank Town community.
“If the overpass had been approved, we wouldn’t have these flooding issues,” Hawkins said.
Homeowners affected by the flooding issues have claimed heavy rains and rising lake waters naturally receded into nearby fields over time before the implementation of the connector road and its resulting east and west basins of water.
“The safety road was supposed to span all the way back to Pontoon Road,” Hawkins said.
Another member of the Breckenridge Street Group believes that the current resolution “made the four-way intersection even worse” in relation to flooding.
The connector road is surrounded by Dobrey Slough and the wetland preservation area, elevating the controversy to a federal issue. Linda Knogl, a member of the Breckenridge Street Group, said “people can buy credits from mitigation bankers to utilize the wetland for development, but the wetland has to be compensated at equal or greater size somewhere nearby.” The process of mitigation banking is monitored, overseen and approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.
Hawkins cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision regarding Department of Transportation vs. Association of American Railroads as a precedent for the controversy.
“The Supreme Court gave railroads too much power,” she said.
One of the main tenets of the mounting concern is the financial burden and damage to property value imposed upon many residents who cannot easily afford flood insurance, according to Hawkins and the Breckenridge Street Group.
The Breckenridge Street Group hopes to reach out to a larger portion of the Pontoon Beach population (who “didn’t know the wetland had flooded,” according to Hawkins) with a public hearing.
On March 28, Knogl and her husband delivered citizen letters from Breckenridge Street, Tank Town and interested Pontoon Village residents to the St. Louis office of the Army Corps of Engineers, requesting a public hearing on the subject of the 72-acre wetland mitigation project. In a meeting with Project Manager Tyson Zobrist, they discussed the details of the project and a potential public hearing.
For a previous article concerning the Morrison connector road, visit advantagenews.com/news/new-connector-road-to-open-monday-in-granite-city/.
For Madison County Board’s decision regarding the Morrison connector road, visit www.co.madison.il.us/document_center/AUGUST_21__2013.PDF.
For U.S. Supreme Court case No. 13-1080, visit www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/13-1080_f29g.pdf.