Will Transit Reps Repeat Their Misguided Support for the Illiana Tomorrow?

Even though the Illiana will be tolled, taxpayers who never drive on the highway will pay for it. Graphic: Metropolitan Planning Council

Funding for major Chicagoland transit projects will be at stake tomorrow, when regional representatives convened by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning vote on whether to move forward with the Illiana Tollway. Even though approving the Illiana will jeopardize CTA and Metra improvements by adding competition for the same pot of funds, all four Chicagoland transit agencies – and the Chicago Department of Transportation – either voted for the project or abstained in an advisory vote earlier this month.

If the 19 members of CMAP’s Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee vote to include the Illiana on the list of fiscally constrained projects in the GO TO 2040 regional plan, it would mean that the Illinois Department of Transportation can proceed with planning and design of the job-exporting highway while IDOT continues negotiations with businesses to craft a public-private partnership that all Illinois taxpayers would pay for until 2053.

The CTA and CDOT reps are likely to vote no tomorrow, since Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come out against the highway, saying, “I don’t see the Illiana is in the self-interest of the City of Chicago from a competitive standpoint.” In fact, it’s also against the interests of those who live in all the counties around Chicago, because IDOT has predicted it will take away residents and jobs.

Active Transportation Alliance is asking its members to take action and tell Metra, Pace, and the Regional Transportation Authority to vote against the Illiana Tollway. All together, the agencies could swing the vote against the Illiana. Active Trans writes that the project would harm transit and the region in two main ways:

Private funding is not going to cover the expressway’s full costs, which leaves taxpayers on the hook for upwards of one billion dollars. The Illiana would leave few transportation dollars available for a long list of CTA and Metra improvements, and two new transit projects—the Red Line south extension to 130th street and the West Loop Transit Center—dimming the prospect that they will ever be built.

Secondly, the Illiana would divert people, commerce, and resources, away from existing urban development—and the enormous transit investments our region has already made in those areas—and promote sprawl in remote areas that are much more difficult and expensive to serve by transit. In fact, as the Chicago Tribune pointed out in an October 7 editorial, the justification for constructing the Illiana — to serve that sprawl — is the very scenario that the GO TO 2040 plan seeks to avoid.

The vote will happen at the CMAP office in Sears Tower at 3 p.m. (RSVP required.)

Updated 23:36: Committee member Rich Kwasneski, representing Pace suburban bus operator, but who is also the executive director of a business development group in the area that would be served by the tollway, says he’ll vote yes.

  • Chicagio

    Filled out the petition and sent on to friends but, i’m not optimistic that this will be shot down.

    With that in mind, is there any other way to stop the Illiana? For instance, if the next governor wanted to stop the project, would he/she be able to? I imagine there will be plenty of lawsuits filled against the project but have lawsuits from interest groups ever been successful at stopping this sort of thing?

  • Different ways it can be stopped (I attempted to put them in order):

    1. IDOT finds no business with which to sign a contract.
    2. The Illinois Legislature does not approve the contract.
    3. The governor does not approve the bill if the legislature approves the contract.

    Less feasible, the legislature could create a new bill that restricts the amount of funds that can be used for the kind of public-private partnership IDOT is pursuing (the “availability payment” kind that puts taxpayers on the hook for the first 40 years of operation).

  • Ryan Wallace

    Almost laughable press release by IDOT today: http://t.co/IIqIVLt9mW

  • “low risk to taxpayers” – hmph. And simplistic analysis by CMAP (and presumably they’re lumping MPC in there)… another hmph as that analysis was based on IDOT’s own documents. That image I keep showing with the red areas (meaning job growth) in Indiana is straight from IDOT’s own report.

  • Anonymous

    ” IDOT finds no business with which to sign a contract”

    This is the only really plausible one, unfortunately, and I don’t think that even that will necessarily put a stake in the heart of the project, if Quinn is re-elected.

  • Peter

    It would be quite short sighted to ignore the fact that this project is about commerce and the transport of freight through the Chicagoland region. The current system of highways is congested and Illinois/Chicago must take the appropriate steps to plan for the future in order to grow our economy, and maintain and increase our regional job force.

    Some stats:
    – 46% of all intermodal units moving through the USA touch Chicago.
    – In 2010, 63% of freight in Illinois was carried via truck.
    – The Chicago region is considered the 3rd largest inland port in THE WORLD.
    – 25% of all US rail traffic touches Chicago.
    – All of these values are projected to increase into the future.
    – USDOT projects freight rail trade in Chicago will triple from 2011-2040.
    – Chicagoland is the largest major logistics and distribution center in the central USA.
    -The Illiana Expressway will operate as a toll road and user fees will be the primary source of revenue for construction and operation..(per the Illinois Chamber of Commerce).

    Timely movement of goods is as much a vital part of our world in Chicago as being able to move people in an urban environment.

    Just posting some facts… Have a great day :-)

  • BlueFairlane

    While your facts are true, the Illiana doesn’t really affect any of them. This highway adds 40 miles to the path of east-west traffic through the region, and it offers no advantage to north-south traffic, or for traffic that originates or ends in Chicago. It might avoid congestion for Indianapolis-Des Moines or St. Louis-Detroit and points beyond, but there are already alternate routes that take that traffic far from Chicagoland and don’t involve tolls or the permanently backed-up ramp from 65 onto eastbound 80.Chicago manages to touch 45% of freight without this highway. I don’t see that building it affects that any.

  • Tom Hagglund

    10/17, 7:00 PM:
    Ugh. CMAP just passed the OK on the Illiana, 11-8. No breakdown on who voted what, as of yet.

    http://www.nbcchicago.com/traffic/transit/illiana-expressway–228158781.html

  • Anonymous

    2+2 = 4
    2*2 = 4

    Therefore, 2/2 = 4.

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