Russ and Neeta McClintock of Godfrey look over a proposed alternative during the public meeting at Alton high school on July 15.
ALTON | M. Darlene Berg is worried the days are numbered for the place she has called home the last 17 years.
“The majority of the residents and businesses in the pathway of this proposed highway are not in favor of moving forward with the Proposed Alton-Godfrey Connector,” Berg, of Godfrey, said. “If they do this, it will take my home and our four acres of land. We have parts of our home that we just remodeled. If it is imperative the Alton-Godfrey Connector be built, why not use the open fields East of North Alby Road?
“Wouldn’t it be more cost effective than going through people’s homes?”
Citizens met with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Engineers and consultants during a public meeting on July 15 at Alton High School to discuss potential transportation development options between Alton and Godfrey that could take place over the next several years. The purpose was to update the community on the Alton-Godfrey transportation study progress, present potential preferred alternatives and hear public comments.
More than 200 residents, business owners and motorists reviewed the five proposed alternatives and took advantage of having the men and women who designed the options available in person to answer questions and hear concerns.
“We did hear a lot of concerns, but also good feedback,” IDOT spokesperson Cindy Stafford said. “Some people see the forward and pro-active thinking. Some citizens understand how current transportation problems will only continue to decline in the future. So many motorists are having to use roads that were not intended to hold that level of traffic on a day-to-day basis. We are very fortunate to have so much feedback from the community so early in the process.”
The transportation study began in early 2012 to identify ways to make travel easier and safer for people who use the local roadway system between Route 3/111 (Homer Adams Parkway) and Route 255. Part of the plan would also improve roadway connections between Route 3/111 and Route 67.
IDOT reports that those individuals who have submitted feedback indicated travel can be difficult due to congestion and unsafe conditions in locations, such as areas along Humbert Road, Alby Street and Tolle Lane. Approximately 150,000 local daily trips are made by motorists through these areas on a daily basis. IDOT engineers are also considering the high-speed rail that is currently in the testing phase.
Some citizens reported more concerns than questions to the consultants and engineers when it comes to natural wildlife.
“We’ve been upset over some of these proposals because of the wildlife, plants and fruit trees that will be affected.” JoAnn Martin of Alton said. “We don’t want to have a bunch of traffic and machinery outside our door, not to mention they will be taking a lot of my backyard as well as property that we just bought not too long ago.
“No one is talking to us about buying the property from us. They already have stakes in our yard; they were put there without talking to us first. Our street is very quiet, so no one is happy about all of this.”
IDOT, who is conducting the study along with a Community Advisory Group (CAG), stated the needs for the project may create inconvenience for a short time, but the long term rewards will benefit the community as a whole. IDOT anticipates that the project will improve connections to Route 255, which includes better access to Lewis and Clark Community College and to the commercial areas in Alton and Godfrey. IDOT also feels the study shows the new construction will take traffic off local roads, replace the current at-grade railroad crossings on North Alby Street and Tolle Lane with overpasses, provide better emergency response times and will promote economic development.
The project is IDOT’s preferred choice from five alternatives. Stafford says this plan potentially could displace 18 residential homes and 8 commercial buildings, seven on Homer Adams Parkway and one on Tolle Road.
“The whole project may have a use in 20 to 30 years,” Godfrey Mayor Mike McCormick said. “At this point, I don’t see a need for it. The displacement doesn’t sit well with me or the board. From day one, I wanted to see what they had to offer, but keeping people in their homes comes first.
“Once I found out about this, I became a member of the CAG committee, and the communication with IDOT has been very good.”
Cost is one topic that has put a sour taste in the mouths of some residents in a time when Illinois is trying to cut spending and climb out of debt. The estimated construction cost of this project is $150 million and is already included in the 2016-2021 proposed Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program.
“It’s my opinion that we don’t have the money for any of this right now,” Alton resident Russ McClintock said. “With state financing being so far in debt and people thrown in and out of housing, I mean, they’re suggesting tearing housing down to widen some roads to make easier access to an old mall. I’m for the overpass near Tolle Lane; I believe that’s fine. We need some sort of traffic light at that intersection.
“Otherwise, the rest of this is just a waste of time and our tax dollars.”
Citizens against the proposed Alton-Godfrey extension have drafted a formal petition of opposition to the Alton-Godfrey bypass proposed by IDOT. The petition is available at Freer Auto Body, 4512 N Alby St., Godfrey, or Roberts Motors, 4350 N Alby St., Alton.
As the potential preferred alternative is still in the preliminary phases, it must still be approved by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) and receive approval from the environmental resource agencies. A Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (Draft EIS) will be submitted to the FHA later this year and a public hearing will be scheduled. Once the preliminary engineering phase is complete, Phase II would begin in the time span of 12 to 24 months, depending on the size of the contract.
Community comments will be heard and considered if submitted by July 29th by visiting www.idot.illinois.gov/projects/Alton-Godfrey-Study.
This week, both State Senator Dan Beiser and State Representative William Haine told IDOT they were pulling support for the project, essentially killing its chances by submitting a "no-build" request.