Route 66 News

Proposed freeway may affect Route 66, landmarks

A proposed Illiana Expressway that will connect Interstate 55 to Interstate 65 near Gary, Ind., may affect Route 66 and other historic landmarks in Wilmington, Ill., reported The Herald-News of Joliet, Ill.

Virginia Ferry, chairwoman of the Will County Historic Preservation Commission, told the newspaper she is determined to mitigate those effects.

“I know we have to progress. But we have to save as much as we can,” Ferry said. “Unlike what happened with the construction of I-355, people who represent Illinois are coming to us and listening to us and are eager to hear what we have to say.”

The Illiana must comply with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 — specifically Section 106 — which requires the Federal Highway Administration to consider the impact such a highway would have on historic properties.

The impact is not just from the 2,000-foot-wide concrete road and its interchanges, but the potential visual, noise and vibration impacts one mile north and south of it.

The construction of an Interstate 355 extension 10 years ago destroyed several historic properties, Ferry said.

Among the historic landmarks that may be affected:

  • Route 66 (including a partial cloverleaf intersection at Illinois 53)
  • Downtown Wilmington
  • The historic Eagle Hotel of Wilmington

The preferred path of the Illiana expressway does not bulldoze any buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. But preservationists are wary it could produce noise, extra traffic, or an unsightly new background to these places.

(Hat tip: Lynn Bagdon; image of the Eagle Hotel of Wilmington, Ill., via Wikipedia Commons)


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