Editorials

Runnin’ on empty, beltway highway project crashes on junk heap

In 2009, Thomas Joseph and Marty Ganz with stop158.org were working to convince local leaders and the Illinois Department of Transportation that the Gateway Connector was not needed and would have greater costs than merits. They won, but victory may turn into something else.
In 2009, Thomas Joseph and Marty Ganz with stop158.org were working to convince local leaders and the Illinois Department of Transportation that the Gateway Connector was not needed and would have greater costs than merits. They won, but victory may turn into something else. dholtmann@bnd.com

Stop 158 did. But the demise of the Gateway Connector, a beltway version of Illinois 158, may have at least as much to do with Illinois dysfunction as with traffic studies or the environment or saving the rural lifestyle.

The Illinois Department of Transportation since about 2000 was planning a beltway sweeping from Columbia through eastern St. Clair County and up to Troy. It would create a fluid path through the areas we see developing in the metro-east.

But the corridor languished until just recently, when IDOT abolished it. The swath of land, sometimes two miles wide, kept landowners in limbo because they were not allowed to develop their land. IDOT wanted it preserved for the future highway.

Well no state money was forthcoming and other transportation needs are more pressing, so the corridor is dead.

Opponents said IDOT’s projections were flawed and there would not be as much traffic as predicted.

But highways and interchanges truly seem to be “build it and they will come” devices.

The initial wish of the landowners to preserve their rural lifestyle may have been furthered, but there are doubts. That area is the likely growth area. Now it will grow without the transportation infrastructure.

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