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Illinois 3 connector plan good for freight-hauling industry, bad for family business

Tiffany Brase, on the left, listens to concerns from Josh and Jake Newman and their parents, Pam and Joe Newman, at a public hearing Tuesday in East St. Louis.
Teri Maddox
Belleville News-Democrat
Tiffany Brase, studies and plans engineer for the Illinois Department of Transportation, left, listens to concerns from Josh and Jake Newman and their parents, Pam and Joe Newman, at a public hearing Tuesday in East St. Louis on the proposed Illinois 3 and 203 connector.

Editor's note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat.

Plans for a new highway connector from Illinois 3 in Fairmont City to Illinois 203 near World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison are designed to improve traffic flow for tractor-trailers and other vehicles and help with the region’s logistics and industrial development.

But a family that owns three trucking-related companies says the Illinois Department of Transportation’s “preferred” route, which was formally unveiled last week, will have a devastating effect on their business.

The route, which consists of two adjoining roads, would require the state to use eminent domain to buy an estimated five of the family’s 18 acres in Fairmont City, where they opened a new headquarters eight months ago.

This would limit space for semi parking and prohibit construction of a railroad spur to allow train cars to pull up to the building and unload tanks of liquid commodities, according to the family, which owns and operates Newman Carriers, Archview Tank Wash and Newman Holdings.

“Our business is going to be significantly impacted by this,” said Josh Newman, vice president of Archview. “The building is less than a year old. We have over 100 employees.”

Josh’s brother, Jake Newman, predicted that the loss of land would reduce the facility’s lifespan from 25 to five years. He also questioned the need for the new roads based on current levels of traffic in the area.

IDOT has been talking about the Illinois 3 Connector Project for nearly 20 years. It’s part of a larger plan to eventually reroute Interstate 70 so that it splits from Interstate 55 east of the raceway and circles northwest to Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The Illinois 3 connector is high on a list of 26 priority infrastructure projects for St. Louis Regional Freightway, an arm of Bi-State Development that’s coordinating a campaign to make the St. Louis region an “epicenter” of freight transportation in the Midwest.

The connector will benefit manufacturers, warehouses, railroad yards, river terminals, trucking companies and other “freight generators” in the area, according to Mary Lamie, who oversees Freightway as Bi-State’s executive vice president of multi modal enterprises.

“Right now, if you’re on 203 and you want to get to Route 3, you can use some of the local agency roads, or you can travel to (Interstate 55-70) and get on and off the interstate system,” she said, noting both options slow down truck drivers hauling freight.

Eagle Park Road connects Illinois 3 and Illinois 203 to the north, but it crosses three sets of railroad tracks, and vehicles must go through the village of Brooklyn on Canal Street at the west end. Another alternative is Collinsville Road to the south of Interstate 55-70.

The map shows the Illinois Department of Transportation’s preferred route for new roads connecting Illinois 3 and Illinois 203 north of World Wide Technology Raceway.
Illinois Department of Transportation
The yellow line on this map shows the Illinois Department of Transportation’s preferred route for new roads connecting Illinois 3 and Illinois 203 north of World Wide Technology Raceway.

Four potential routes

IDOT studied four potential routes for the Illinois 3 Connector Project. All involved construction of a new relocated section of Illinois 3 in Fairmont City; a new two-lane road between that section and Illinois 203 in Madison; and improvements along a stretch of Exchange Avenue in East St. Louis.

IDOT unveiled its preferred route at an open house and public hearing Nov. 28 at Clyde C. Jordan Senior Citizens Center in East St. Louis.

About 30 people showed up to ask questions and get information, but the only ones who spoke publicly were Josh and Jake Newman and their parents, Joe and Pam Newman, of Edwardsville.

Joe Newman founded Newman Carriers in 1984. The trucking company specializes in transporting tanks of liquid commodities, such as chemicals, resin and petroleum products. Archview provides tank-washing services.

At the hearing, Pam Newman said expansion on the Fairmont City land, which borders railroad tracks, was a family “dream.” Joe Newman asked IDOT officials to consider moving the connector north.

“We have drivers making upwards of $100,000,” he said. “We have mechanics making $90,000. These are good-paying jobs. (The loss of land) is going to have a huge economic impact, and this is literally a brand-new facility. We’ve been in there about eight months, and nobody has told us anything about this.”

The Newmans said they knew IDOT was planning to build an Illinois 3 connector, but they assumed the state would take only a small corner of their land, not a large swath all the way across.

The route that IDOT selected has the least environmental impact, is more favorable in terms of construction and maintenance costs and was preferred by “stakeholders,” according to the agency’s online summary.

“The Preferred Alternative satisfies purpose and need by enhancing accessibility for all users, providing travel time reliability, and eliminating the dependence on indirect local routes and short trips along I-55 and I-70,” it states.

IDOT Studies and Plans Engineer Tiffany Blase, who answered questions at the open house, said property disputes aren’t uncommon with highway projects, particularly large ones.

Blase listened to the Newman family’s concerns and promised that agency staff would take them into consideration.

Another person who attended the open house was Danielle McGill, an East St. Louis resident who lives near Exchange Avenue. She wanted to find out how construction would affect her driving habits.

“I think it will be worth it because, just looking at the map, (the connector) makes sense,” McGill said. “It looks like they’ll be taking you on a shorter, simpler route versus going around in a circle.”

On the left, semi trailer tanks are shown. On the right, Joe Newman, owner of Newman Carriers in Fairmont City, stands for a portrait.
Joshua Carter
Belleville News-Democrat
Joe Newman, owner of Newman Carriers in Fairmont City, wants to build a spur from railroad tracks to his building so he can unload tanks of chemicals, resin and petroleum products for distribution in the St. Louis region.

$80 million price tag

The Illinois 3 Connector Project is expected to cost about $80 million, according to Cindy Stafford, IDOT Location Studies Engineer. The agency is completing Phase 1, which is preliminary engineering and environmental study. Phase 2 is final engineering and land acquisition.

The state already has approved funding for the project, which will result in 1.5 miles of new roadway. It has three main components:

  • Construction of a two-lane section of relocated Illinois 3 in Fairmont City. This is part of a larger plan for rerouting Illinois 3 from Sauget north to Venice that dates back to the 1990s. Much of the work has been completed. The highway could be expanded from two to four lanes in the future.
  • Construction of a two-lane road between the new section of relocated Illinois 3 in Fairmont City to Illinois 203 in Madison, north of the raceway. It will bridge over railroad tracks and the Lansdowne Ditch.
  • Reconstruction of Exchange Avenue from First Street to Seventh Street in East St. Louis. This includes new sidewalks, curbs, gutters and closed storm sewers.

The connector project will eliminate about 2 acres of floodplain and 3 acres of wetlands. IDOT Environmental Studies Manager Jennifer Hunt said that will be mitigated by building detention basins and expanding another wetlands area in the vicinity.
“There’s a regulation that there be no net loss of wetlands,” she said. “So what we take out, we have to give back.”

IDOT also has identified 24 “special waste sites” and at least one archaeological site that will be impacted by construction. The former includes areas where chemicals or petroleum may need to be cleaned up.

Any archaeological investigations will focus on identification and documentation, according to Stafford.

“This area has a lot of archaeological history with the Cahokia (American Indian) heritage, along with more recent history such as the stockyards,” she said, speaking of the former St. Louis National Stockyards in National City.

Teri Maddox is a reporter with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Teri Maddox is a reporter with the Belleville News Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.