Widening Rt. 70 for safety reasons ‘ludicrous’

In reference to the widening of Illinois Route 70, I faxed my column in The Rock River Times to Representatives Jim Sacia and Dave Winters, and e-mailed it to IDOT.

While I got no response from the state reps, I got this response from IDOT:

Dear Mrs. Pagel: The need to widen and resurface Illinois 70 is largely based on the significant accident history of the route and poor existing roadway conditions. In the three years studied, there were 112 accidents resulting in 70 injuries. With safety being a major concern, the need to improve this roadway was apparent. When the scope for the improvement was defined, the next step was to look at impacts. The impacts to trees and native prairie plants were identified early in the development of this project, and efforts were made to minimize those impacts. IDOT’s first choice is to avoid impacts, and if that is not feasible, we turn to our mitigation process.

The Illinois DNR reviewed the project for endangered and threatened species and found none. To mitigate the prairie that is impacted by construction, a 7 acre area of the ROW will be seeded with a prairie seed mix developed by the District 2 Landscape Architect—a mix that includes 43 native species, including Pasque flower. A concerned property owner was also given the opportunity to harvest seed or salvage prairie plants prior to any excavation. The 450 trees removed from the project area for construction will be replaced with deciduous tree species that are native to the District 2 area.

Jay Howell, Studies and Plans Engineer.

I then faxed their response to the state reps, along with my response to IDOT:

Dear Mr. Howell, Your assertion that Route 70 needed widening for safety reasons is ludicrous and insulting. None of the accidents you claim to have documentation for can be blamed on the width of the pavement or the configuration of the right of way. Every vehicle accident was the result of driver error, i.e. the person behind the wheel.

Not one 200-year-old bur oak or sugar maple ever caused a wreck. No wild plum thicket or patch of wafer ash ever caused a wreck. No milk weed, wild rose, or prairie remnant ever caused a wreck. The entire resurfacing could have been accomplished without bulldozing every scrap of vegetation from the entire right of way. You and your IDOT cronies turned a simple and long overdue resurfacing job into a huge wasteful pork barrel project, and you are really flattering yourselves if you think you’ve done anything to be proud of!

It’s despicable that you admit you studied other options and inventoried all the habitat, then deliberately chose to pursue the most destructive and costly plan for the entire project. You destroyed every bit of the aesthetic, historic, and environmental value of all the habitat along miles and miles of right of way.

How pathetic it is that the State of Illinois can’t hire anyone with any more environmental and financial ethics than what you people at IDOT have exhibited. We have a right to expect better in this day and age, especially in view of the huge amount of tax dollars poured into road projects. At least 75 percent of the money spent on Route 70 was simply squandered. As usual, IDOT and our elected representatives will squall and whine for more money—the mantra is always “We’ve spent it all. Give us some more!”

Don’t bother patting yourselves on the back for reseeding the whole area, which you bulldozed down to bedrock, because you’ll never even come close to re-establishing the habitat diversity. YOU DESTROYED IT FOREVER.

I then e-mailed my column and all the above correspondence to our governor, along with this note:

Dear Governor Blagojevich,

IDOT’s handling of this Route 70 resurfacing project won the local Sierra Club’s “award” for being the worst of the worst environmental violations in Winnebago County. I hope you will take the time to oversee future IDOT projects planned for this area before any more tax money is appropriated. We have seen far too much of this type of wasteful spending in the past, and unless your administration can do a thorough “housecleaning” in the IDOT bureaucracy, the future doesn’t look any better.

The citizens of this county would like to be able to have faith in elected officials and trust them to spend our tax dollars judiciously and ethically. We realize that the Route 70 project was implemented during Governor Ryan’s administration, so it’s a certainty that the corruption within IDOT is completely entrenched.

I have attached my nomination article, which was published in The Rock River Times and sent to IDOT and representatives Sacia and Winters. Also attached is IDOT’s response to me and my letter back to them, which has also been sent to the representatives.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and your pledge to clean up government in Illinois.

I received a postcard acknowledging that the governor’s office received my e mail, and I have heard nothing since from any of our public officials.

Sylvia Pagel is a local activist.

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