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Route 71 Construction 'Like Living in a Nightmare'

Nov 19, 2015 08:21PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Alexandra Lestina's home at 259 Calumet sits in the heart of the Route 71 construction zone.

Alexandra Lestina has had enough. 

The 16-year resident of 259 Calumet St. in Oswego has for the past three years endured what she says has been an onslaught of dust, debris, raw sewage and noise from the $21 million widening of Route 71. You see, Lestina’s home is in the heart of the construction zone and sits just feet from the massive piles of dirt that have been a year-long constant on the southeast corner of Route 71 and Plainfield Road. 

Two large piles of dirt sit just feet from Lestina's backyard.

Over the course of the past year alone, Lestina has called Oswego Police to her home on four separate occasions to report late-night working hours and excessive construction noise. According to Oswego Police reports, Lestina has been told that IDOT has permits to conduct late and overnight work. She's also called the Illinois Department of Transportation, contractors and the village of Oswego, and she says no one will listen.

Lestina said she reached her breaking point this past weekend when crews were sawing concrete at 1:30 a.m. and then ripped up a portion of an elderly neighbor’s driveway without warning. A friend of the man's daughter, Amber Stark, got his vehicle stuck Monday morning in the ditch created by the driveway work.

“This has got to stop today,” Lestina said this week. “This has been like a living nightmare. I’m 44, and I feel like I’m 60. I can’t even function anymore. This situation is no longer livable.”

Lestina said her problems began in 2012 when crews were moving a nearby underground pipe, and it burst, filling her basement with 3 feet of raw sewage. She, her husband and three children were moved into a hotel in Naperville for a month, creating an hour-long commute to their schools in Oswego. The family was then moved into a Montgomery rental home for another eight months as $130,000 in repairs were made to the home. 

Since construction actually began to widen the road, Lestina said her home constantly shakes, is covered in dirt and has forced her children to not be able to play outside. Despite what seems like a mountain of problems, Lestina said her biggest issue all along has been the lack of communication from contractors and the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the project. 

A friend of neighbor Amber Stark got his car stuck in a ditch created after a portion of the driveway was torn up this week.

“I have made a million phone calls and no one has ever done anything or told me anything,” she said. “IDOT has done nothing to help this situation … ever. Everyone just passes the buck.”

IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell, would not discuss issues with individual residents, however he did answer several questions sent via email this week. Regarding excessive noise at all hours, Tridgell said the village of Oswego has waived its existing noise restrictions for the duration of the project. 

Oswego’s Public Works Director Jennifer Hughes confirmed that fact this week, saying the Village Board voted to do so in 2011 when the project was in the planning stages. And while Lestina says she very rarely receives updates form IDOT regarding activity near her home, Hughes is in regular contact with the state and passes on all resident complaints directly to IDOT's resident project engineer.

“I get it,” Hughes said. “She’s right on top of a really large construction zone. This area’s been under construction for a really long time, and it’s dirty and noisy. I understand their frustration. We try to work with everyone the best we can.” 

Hughes also addressed the early morning concrete sawing that Lestina called police about last week. She said to prevent cracking, lines in the concrete must be cut during a given timeframe from when it is poured. Unfortunately that timeframe happens to occur in the middle of the night, Hughes said. 

“Part of the issue is that IDOT really places very few restrictions on how and when contractors can work,” she said. “They are mostly concerned with whether the project is being completed on time and on budget.”

Hughes said once the concrete is completely poured in the two eastbound lanes, she would hope that the dirt hills near Lestina’s home and the rock crushing operation across Route 71 will be closed. When that might be, Hughes said, is hard to tell. 

“It really depends on the weather and how much can be done before winter gets here,” she said.

When asked when the dirt piles and rock crushing operation might close, Tridgell could provide no timeline.

"This is something that the contractor needs to complete this work," he said. "It will be removed prior to the finish of the project."

And when will the end finally be here?

"We expect to be finished next fall," Tridgell said.

That's  not soon enough as far as Lestina concerned, and is of little comfort.

“I would sell this home in a heartbeat, but who would buy it?” she asked. 

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