Lincolnwood protests Touhy soil haul route
Jim Tansor of Nicor addresses Lincolnwood officials at a hearing on plans to remove contaminated soil from property near the Skokie Sports Park. Lincolnwood officials were enraged over the original traffic plan. | Mike Isaacs~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 22, 2012 6:13AM
The thought of a couple dozen trucks per hour traversing Touhy Avenue for the next two years, some carrying contaminated soil, outraged Lincolnwood officials and some residents.
That unpopular scenario would have played out under the original traffic plan for clearing away contaminants from an 18-acre site next to the Skokie Sports Park near McCormick Boulevard and Oakton Street.
But Lincolnwood’s loud protests have convinced Nicor to cancel its original traffic plan and build a new route from scratch. The contaminated soil will be driven to Joliet for disposal, Nicor officials reported.
Nicor pledged that Lincolnwood will be part of the discussion when creating the new route. Lincolnwood Mayor Jerry Turry, who attended a Nicor public hearing last week in Skokie, insisted that those meetings be made public.
In early June, Turry fired off a letter to Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen complaining about the lack of information being provided to Lincolnwood. Turry said Lincolnwood should have included in the cleanup plans — especially how the contaminants would be removed from the site.
“What is happening is that Lincolnwood will be receiving all the negative impacts of this project while experiencing none of the benefits,” the Lincolnwood mayor wrote.
After the site is cleaned up by Nicor Gas, the Skokie Park District plans to build new lighted baseball fields among other recreational uses there.
Touhy Avenue is already congested, Lincolnwood officials explained, and they worry that truck traffic to that degree would exacerbate the situation. Some Lincolnwood business representatives on the Touhy corridor said the increase in traffic could hurt them.
While Nicor officials last week wanted to put the original traffic plan behind them — repeatedly assuring that the Touhy route is now off the table and there currently is no traffic plan — Lincolnwood representatives still expressed anger that such a plan was created without their notification.
“I keep hearing you say there is no traffic plan, but there was a traffic plan,” Turry told a Nicor representative. “We’re not foolish. We know it existed at one point and that was the basis of why we’re here tonight.”
Lincolnwood Village Manager Tim Wiberg said Nicor’s traffic plan was created in October, 2011, but Lincolnwood did not hear about it until May 18 and was told the project would start July 22.
While Wiberg said the project, when completed, could have great benefits for the region, the lack of notification and negative impact to Lincolnwood is “unacceptable.”
Wiberg said Nicor’s first response to Lincolnwood was that it was going ahead using Touhy as the main route anyway. He also said Nicor’s first report indicated up to 30 trucks per hour would be using Touhy.
“I expressed to them my outrage and I expressed to them there’s a matter of due process,” Wiberg said.
Nicor officials, however, said they listened to Lincolnwood’s concerns, which is why they scrapped the traffic plan. No plan will move forward without both Lincolnwood’s and Skokie’s input, they added.
Other concerns with the project were also voiced by Lincolnwood residents.
Some supported the status quo and said the project poses health and cost concerns. Although the cost of the project, estimated at between $60 million and $70 million, will be spread out among all customers in subsequent years, residents questioned whether it was worth it.
Most residents in attendance last week were seniors from Lincolnwood’s Barclay Place near busy Touhy and Lincoln Avenue. They are already concerned about traffic — especially from potential development of the vacant Purple Hotel across the street.
After the meeting, some of the Barclay residents said that even though the initial traffic plan has been axed, that doesn’t mean Touhy won’t be included in the next plan.
“I’m still very concerned,” said Natalie Rosset. “We don’t know what will happen.”
Irv Velt said he thought Nicor was trying to “sweep the problem under the carpet” and that it was important to make sure the process is transparent.