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Ombudsman To Act As Go-Between For 10th Street Rail Corridor

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

  Negotiations between residents of the 10th Street Corridor and the Illinois Department of Transportation , now that there is a go-between for the high speed rail project. A new ombudsman says he will be independent of either side.

Retired Judge Theodis Lewis will mediate discussions and disputes as the city and state get going on construction of the 10th Street Rail Corridor. Lewis' position was announced in downtown Springfield, on the site of the first phase of construction, at 10th and Carpenter. An underpass is slated to begin in late summer.

Lewis says his main job will be collecting and disseminating information to both those residents whose property will be annexed by the project, and the government. His second aim, he says, is fairness.

"The taking of property by government is a very serious, and can be an awesome power, which should not be used unwieldingly," he said. "And the rights of individuals who are involved should be taken into consideration."

Lewis will be paid through IDOT funds, distributed by Sangamon County.

The community group Faith Coalition for the Common Good supports hiring the ombudsman. Coalition member and corridor resident Leroy Jordan says the construction of the high-speed rail project is dwarfed in comparison with the task of helping those who will be displaced.

"It's not just brick and mortar that we're talking about; that's the easy part," he said. "Building roads, building bridges, digging underpasses. But what happens to the people is the hard part."

The project is expected to take years, shifting rail traffic away from 3rd Street, to overpasses further east.

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