As IDOT Postpones Illiana Vote, Planners Say the Region Doesn’t Need It

Illiana expressway: jobs will shift from urbanized counties around Chicago to Will County & Indiana
IDOT's own analysis shows that if the Illiana highway were built, 5,000 jobs would move from the urbanized area of Chicagoland (green areas lose jobs) to Indiana (red areas gain jobs).

Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider has pushed back a crucial vote about the Illiana Expressway a week to October 17. The vote by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning policy committee will decide if building 47 miles of tolled highway south of the urbanized areas of Chicagoland and into Indiana can proceed.

If the committee votes against including the Illiana in the GO TO 2040 regional plan, federal regulations prevent IDOT from proceeding with this version of the project. The CMAP board will vote first, on October 9, and while that vote is only advisory, it could influence members of the policy committee. Members of the policy committee include the heads of IDOT, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Chicago Transit Authority, Metra, Pace, the Union Pacific railroad, and Illinois Tollway, as well as representatives from two businesses and all seven counties in the CMAP planning region.

Crain’s Greg Hinz suspects Schneider’s vote delay is to give project boosters more time “to recover from an adverse board vote,” but an IDOT spokesperson said it was because not all committee members could attend the October 9 meeting.

As expected, CMAP staff, charged with shepherding the GO TO 2040 regional plan’s goal of prioritizing transportation and infrastructure investments in already-developed areas, published a new report today [PDF] that recommends against including the Illiana Expressway. The report calls the project “broadly incompatible with the overall goals and recommendations of GO TO 2040.” The report says that an “Illiana Corridor” project was excluded from the plan because of uncertain financing and no cost estimate. “Both these concerns are still quite real and must be addressed,” staff write, adding that “public information about the project’s funding has not improve substantially” since the plan’s adoption in 2010.

A wide range of organizations, public officials, and media outlets have come out to oppose the project, including Metropolitan Planning Council, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle, and the Chicago Tribune, all of whom recognize that the Illiana will not add jobs to the region but suck them away to Indiana. During the 32-day comment period, CMAP received 169 comments supporting the project and 796 opposing it. The Chicago Tribune summarized the project: “For [Governor] Quinn, road construction is less about moving vehicles from Point A to Point B than about creating jobs (and cutting ribbons).”

Shutting down the project will also shield taxpayers from IDOT’s risky public-private partnership funding scheme. The CMAP report said that a “significant public contribution” of between $440 million and over $1 billion would be needed to attract private investment to the new highway.

Building the Illiana Expressway would take away funding from projects in already developed areas, with greater economic and transportation benefits, that have already earned spots in the region’s plan for the future.


Metra and Pace Vote For Transit-Crushing Illiana Tollway in Advisory Meeting

Chicago-area transportation organizations are poised to shoot themselves in the foot and harm the region by allowing the Illinois Department of Transportation Department to squander limited transportation infrastructure funds on the $2.75 billion Illiana Tollway. On Friday the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s transportation committee voted to recommend moving forward with this wasteful, destructive project, […]

IDOT Prepares to Ram Through Another Expensive Highway Project

The Illinois Department of Transportation is again seeking the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s help to build an expensive highway expansion that isn’t included in the region’s planning blueprint. This time, it’s not about a putting a flyover above Halsted Street and a wall in front of people’s homes, like the agency plans to do […]

Preckwinkle, Environmental Groups Want CMAP to Drop Illiana

The Sierra Club and other organizations intend to petition the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to remove the Illiana Tollway from its regional plan, effectively disallowing the state from building the new highway. The deletion is possible because CMAP, the federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization for this region, is finalizing a mandatory update of its GO […]

MPC: Funding the Illiana Expressway Would Be a Big Mistake

The Metropolitan Planning Council, a non-profit promoting economic development strategies for Chicagoland, has come out strongly against the Illiana Expressway, a 47-mile highway the Illinois Department of Transportation has proposed for the rural communities of southern Will County and northwestern Indiana. MPC released a statement yesterday highlighting numerous shortcomings in IDOT’s proposal, including vague financing […]