Tollway Oases Failing

This sign is on a prominently placed space at the Belvidere Tollway Oasis.

A Daily Herald article by Marni Pyke Sunday about the failure of the re-modeled Tollway Oases, prompts me to share some evidence I gathered on the way to the Old Capitol Art Fair in Springfield a couple of weeks ago.

Dramatically designed empty space in the Belvidere Tollway Rest Stop.

I think it was the summer of 2003 I wrote of the contributions that Rod Blagojevich was taking in from folks having connections with Illinois Toll Highway Authority oases.

Empty Bresler's Ice Cream and Tropicana Juice space.

$50,000 in a personal check from the head of Wilton Partners, for instance.

Taco Bell is still open, but whatever was next door isn't.

The Taco Bell concession is still open, but the space next door is boarded up.

Wilton got the lease from the George Ryan administration, but Wilton was coughing up big money to Blagojevich. I wondered why at the time.

Yogurt is no longer available from I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!

Now I figure the huge contribution was about lease modifications and looking the other way when Wilton didn’t do what it said it would do when it promised.

New York City-based Famiglia Pizzera had relatively high prices, but good pizza.

After the renovation of the Belvidere Oasis, we found a New York pizza place. It served good pizza, but now it is closed.

There were a lot more people in the Belvidere Oasis when I first took photos.

I went around taking pictures. A manager type asked me why I was doing so.

Here's a convenience for Tollway users. The cynic in me observes that those staffing it are probably Boone County Democrats.

I gave the cryptic answer,

“Gathering evidence,”

he asked me not to take his photo and walked away.

There was a visitors information booth with pamphlets from McHenry County. That won't bring in a lot of money.

Made me wonder at the time what he knew.

The Daily Herald said the new administration is creating an oversight committee.

My guess is that there was something similar, but not with that name that told Tollway employees to ignore oversight when Blagojevich was in office.

Empty tables next to Taco Bell.

The reporter uses the word “leniency” to describe past Tollway oversight.

And, what’s wrong with this sentence in the story:

“The tollway tried numerous times to get a look at Wilton’s books, but the company denied access.”

Wilton blamed Tollway construction projects with hurting foot traffic and damaging its buildings.

A view from the Belvidere Rest Stop on a cloudly day. Note the additional empty tables.

Both are probably accurate, but with a 25-year lease, Wilton can’t have been surprised that highway improvements would be necessary.

With regard to the reported business damage, when the Village of Lakewood reconstructed Lake Avenue, the compactor was shaking our house like a Richter Scale 4 earthquake. We had to rebuild our chimney as a result. And, of course, no one could be held responsible. Not Lakewood. Not the paving company. Nobody.

We now see our red oak tree dying and are convinced it is because of all the tiny root hairs have been damaged during construction.

What did Tollway officials do when payments fell far behind?

“…negotiated(d) a settlement in which the agency forgave the debt and let Wilton defer unpaid rent.”

Does that sound like the arrangement in Springfield that Bill Cellini cut for his investment group that built and operated the Renaissance Hotel or what?

One possible change of approach would be “to offer specialty services to truckers – large trucks comprise 37 percent of tollway users.”

Excuse me if my conspiratorial mind remembers a bill that would allow video slot machines in every truck stop in Illinois.

On July 4th Weekend in 2009, we found these machines at the Dixie Truckers Stop on I-55.

They were all over the Dixie Truckers Stop south of Bloomington on Interstate 55 two summers ago.

Less than a year later, the video slot machines were gone.

The machines must not have made money without paying off, because the halls were they were located are now empty.

But, I would not be surprised if enactment of the bill to which I refer would change the oases’ current family-friendly atmosphere drastically if that were perceived to be the only way to make the rest stops pay off.

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