Photo by Sharon J. Filkins
Hickory Hills residents (from left) Marzena Ciszek and Karen Frisco listen to tollway staff member John Nelson explain plans for I-294 expansion Monday night.
Illinois Tollway officials met with Hickory Hills residents and City Council members and staff on Monday to provide an overview of the planned expansion of the I-294 tollway, which borders the east side of the city.
Rocco J. Zucchero, the tollway’s chief planning officer, explained that the planned expansion will include adding lanes in both directions on the 22-mile section of I-294, from Balmoral Avenue on the north, to the 95th Street interchange.
“This section carries the most traffic, including trucks, and has the worst congestion delays. This project is designed to alleviate these problems. Our plan is to have four lanes of traffic open throughout the duration of the project,” Zucchero said.
Construction is scheduled to begin this year with an anticipated completion in 2022.
Zucchero stated that the Tollway Agency had identified 11 property owners in Hickory Hills, whose property abuts the tollway. The purpose of the meeting was to address their concerns and questions about the project.
He said that in most cases, the impact on the resident’s property would involve strips of right-of-way, which is approximately 10 feet.
Karen Grisco, a resident whose home is one of only two that faces the tollway, rather than backing up to it as most homes do, questioned Zuccchero about the timeline for the project.
“When will you know if you need some, or all, of my property?”
Zucchero replied it would be in the next four or five months. He stated again that the agency was anticipating that for the most part, any acquisitions would be for a right-of-way or easement portions.
“Appraisers will meet with residents to determine fair market value and negotiations will begin with the owners. It should be no less than 60 days,” Zucchero said.
In a later conversation, Grisco explained that when her house was built by her grandfather many years ago, it was built on open land, as was the home next to it.
“As the years passed, the land behind the two houses was purchased by a developer who built a large subdivision. The entire subdivision was built facing in the other direction,” she said. “So only my neighbor and I now face the tollway, with a sound wall and drainage ditch across the street from our driveways.”
Her neighbor, Marzena Ciszek, added that even with the sound wall she can hear the traffic.
“But you get used to it. It is livable,” she said.
During the presentation, residents asked if the sound walls would be replaced when the construction was done. Zucchero assured them they would be.
Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley stated later that the city had met with the Tollway Agency in two previous meetings.
“The communication has been good and very transparent. They have been very diligent in alleviating our early concerns about the impact on our residents.”