A Northwest suburban lawmaker thinks the Illinois tollway could have been more helpful to ratepayers faced with a $73 million bill to relocate a water pipe in the way of I-90 expansion.
The issue stems back to a 1984 pact between the tollway and the Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency granting an easement for 16½ miles of pipeline adjacent to the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90). The agency agreed to foot the bill for any pipeline relocations.
State Rep. David Harris, an Arlington Heights Republican, remembers when the water agency was established.
"Everyone assumed that the water mains would last 75 to 100 years, as most water mains do. No one foresaw a forced relocation of the type that is now required by the reconfiguration of I-90," said Harris, referring to the tollway widening of the Jane Addams between Rockford and O'Hare International Airport.
The tollway reduced initial costs from about $120 million to $73 million and is offering zero interest until 2021, after which higher rates kick in. "I personally believe that the toll highway authority could have been more helpful with the costs. After all, it doubled tolls two years ago and will raise $12 billion because of that," Harris said.
The water agency includes Mount Prospect, Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Hoffman Estates, Streamwood and Hanover Park. Ratepayers in those towns also experienced a recent hike from Chicago, which supplies the Lake Michigan water. Tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said the agency worked for two years "side by side with NSMJAWA to reach an agreement on a fair plan to fund the project without impacting residents and on an engineering solution to relocate the pipe that poses the smallest possible risk to the water supply."
The deal represented the best interests of local residents and other tollway customers, she added.
State Rep. Fred Crespo, a Hoffman Estates Democrat, helped with the negotiations and agreed there was sticker shock at first for mayors.
But then everyone worked on "damage control," he said. "In all honesty, when I look at the initial meeting and where we are now ... there was movement and people tried to do the right thing."