Hope for the Highway | Letters | Chicago Reader

Hope for the Highway 

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Dear editor:

Your Ben Joravsky's piece, "Road Warriors," [May 3] had a lot of heart in it. He truly picked up the debate. His narrative picturesquely describes the area and the controversy on what type of and where to build the new four-lane highway.

I do believe, however, he was charmed and snowed by our former congressman, John Cox. I don't blame him. I was too. I voted for him. John can surely spin a yarn about how everyone is favoring a freeway. I believe most people favor a four-laner, but not at the expense of the beauty of the area. I believe tourists come here to see the breathtaking landscapes. Ben does admit this. He says, "Ironically, the drive for a new road began because of the very landscape the proposed freeway would destroy."

Ben portrays the Freeway Watch Committee members through Cox's eyes as newcomers, concerned that the area never change, almost at all costs. That is not what this Freeway Watch member is saying. I am saying northwest Illinois needs a safe four-lane Highway 20. I want the existing two-way highway expanded to a four-laner, exactly on its present alignment. I do not want government, IDOT, telling me where it should be built. I believe the citizens of this county are capable of making a decision and telling IDOT where to put the highway.

I simply do not want to have an old "scenic" Highway 20 and a new maximum capacity, limited-access freeway. I do not want the Illinois Department of Transportation to put a massive freeway down one of the "hollows" (valleys). Such a corruption of the land may be good for truckers; it's not for the tourists who visit or the people who live here. We do not need two highways, one for tourists and one for trucks. I am very concerned about the "concretizing" of Jo Daviess County.

I realize it may be hard to grab hold of this idea through the glasses of a Chicago journalist like Ben. After all, to a Chicagoan what's one more highway? Chicago grows highways like Iowa grows corn.

Thoreau once said, "We are indeed wealthy in what we can leave alone" (untouched). I believe the beauty of this area is such that to disturb it is to take away its worth, to steal an Illinois natural and national treasure.

While I believe in progress and economic development for this county and country, I also believe in a proportionality of care. I have concern both for beauty and progress, for economic development and breathtaking landscapes. I think we can have it all, with a minimum disturbance to the beauty, by expanding the existing Highway 20 to an expressway.

So, Ben, thanks for laying out the parameters of the debate and its history. While I too hate to drive the existing Highway 20 during a rainstorm or in summer traffic, I do not think we need to use a cannon to conquer a fly. We do not need a limited-access freeway elsewhere when an expressway-style remodel of Highway 20 will suffice. Thanks for writing the story and visiting Jo Daviess County's enchanted hills and vistas. We want to keep it that way.

Bernie Curran


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