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Posen homeowners in path of new tollway interchange ask for help

(MCT) — Two women whose homes are being taken as part of the construction of a new interchange on the Tri-State Tollway appealed Thursday for relief.

The Posen residents complained to the Illinois Tollway's board of directors that a March 15 deadline gives them too little time to find new homes and too little help.

"All we are asking is for time," Kiecha Lacey said. "This project has been going on since 1990, on and off and on and off. Now, all of a sudden, it's a rush."

The tollway, they said, isn't doing enough to assist with relocation.

"These people's homes and lives are being turned upside down, and there is no alternative and there is no program out there (to help)," said Latasha Terry-Davis, whose home is 6 years old.

Tollway officials, however, said they believe homeowners and businesses have been treated fairly. The agency has worked for months with local officials and residents on outreach efforts, they said.

The tollway said 172 parcels are needed for the project and that 96 have been acquired. The project requires 66 relocations, including 20 single-family houses, four multiunit buildings and three businesses.

Thirty-one of the 66 relocations have been completed, said Rocco Zucchero, the tollway's deputy chief of engineering.

The $719 million joint project with the Illinois Department of Transportation includes connecting the Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) with Interstate 57 near 147th Street and Kedzie Avenue in the southwest suburbs.

The site is one of only a few places in the U.S. where interstates cross but don't connect, according to the tollway.

Southbound I-294 traffic must make a roundabout trip on Interstate 80 to get to I-57. The tollway estimates 76,000 vehicles per day will benefit from the new interchange.

Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said the authority has been working with residents and businesses to acquire their property equitably and to assist in relocation.

"We want this to be a win-win for everyone," Lafleur said. "We know there are residents who are being displaced, and we want to handle this as sensitively and responsibly as possible."

The tollway has hosted several public meetings on the project, including briefings with elected officials and property owners, and distributed newsletters, Zucchero said.

Another homeowners meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.

In 2011, the tollway agreed to include the interchange as part of its 15-year, $12.1 billion "Move Illinois" capital program. The work is funded by the 87.5 percent increase in tolls that went into effect Jan. 1.

Planning for the project dates to as early as 1993 and has long been on transportation planners' wish lists. But until the tollway committed funds, there was never enough money to build it.


©2012 the Chicago Tribune

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