Study: Building Longmeadow Parkway actually better for environment
Kane County officials will unveil an environmental impact report on the Longmeadow Parkway project next week that says the project is not only clean but better for the environment than not building it.
The updated environmental study comes as county officials seek approval from the Federal Highway Authority to proceed with construction. The approval also would help clear the way to receive federal funding that would reduce the current need to borrow $30 million to help pay for the $135 million project.
Once completed in 2019, the parkway would encompass 5.6 miles and include a new toll bridge over the Fox River.
State officials from IDOT and engineering and environmental consultants joined Kane County staff members Wednesday for a preview of a public hearing slated for Tuesday, Aug. 30, in Elgin. The updated study includes new information on the impact construction will have on endangered animal species within the corridor.
The study includes how air and noise pollution affects new residential subdivisions built in the project area since the last study. It also shows the creation of about 17 acres of new wetlands to mitigate the impact on 11 existing wetlands.
Additional studies of mussels in the Fox River and training crews to minimize the harm of construction on turtles and bats are also part of the plan.
All the findings in the new report support Kane County's contention that building Longmeadow will do less to harm the environment than not constructing the parkway, said Tom Rickert, the county's deputy transportation director. That finding is based on a 2014 projection that puts 146,000 new residents in the four townships the project touches by 2040.
Rickert said not building the parkway would mean all those new people would use existing roads. Those roads would need to be widened or otherwise enhanced to accommodate all the new traffic. All that work would affect a larger geographic, and primarily residential, area. Opponents will have a chance to dispute that perspective and add their own input at the public hearing. Billita Jacobsen is one of the more vocal opponents. She called the notion that Longmeadow is the least-harmful option "the most ridiculous spin I've heard" in a written statement Wednesday.
"Do they take the taxpaying public as idiots?" she said. "They are causing significant impacts to three forest preserves, cutting down thousands of trees, filling in wetlands and floodplain, and placing four lanes of traffic practically in people's backyards. They have the nerve to say it's less of an impact?"
Comments like that will be reviewed by the Federal Highway Authority before a decision is made on the need for further environmental study. There is no timetable for the authority's decision.
Failure to get a green light would trigger a more in-depth update to the environmental study. Such an update would delay the project for up to two years, officials said.