Illinois agency votes against Illiana plan
By Casey Toner Sun-Times Media October 9, 2013 11:50AM
Updated: November 11, 2013 12:14PM
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning voted against adding the proposed Illiana Expressway to its long-term transportation plan on Wednesday.
CMAP officials on Wednesday voted against including the proposed expressway in its Go To 2040 long-range transportation plan. The project needs to get on the list for it to move forward.
CMAP’s transportation committee had voted to add the tollway to the plan, which outlines roughly $360 billion in transportation spending between now and 2040. Only $10 billion of that amount is reserved for new transportation projects, including the Interstate 294/Interstate 57 interchange and the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line South extension.
Transportation analysts disagree on the need for the 47-mile tollway, which would be built through a private/public partnership and would connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill., with Interstate 65 near Lowell.
Supporters say it would provide another major east-west highway through northeast Illinois and relieve traffic on I-80, which is needed because truck traffic is fast increasing in Will County in light of the growth of intermodal centers, where train and truck cargo are exchanged. The state transportation departments in Illinois and Indiana have planned the project.
Those opposed to the highway contend it will cost much more than the projected $1.25 billion, and its benefits for economic development and traffic relief will be negligible.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider have fast-tracked planning for the Illiana in recent months. But it faces legal opposition. Openlands, Sierra Club and the Midewin Heritage Association filed a federal lawsuit this summer to block the expressway, which they contend will damage state and federally protected natural resources.
Another vote is scheduled for Oct. 17 by the 19-member board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which needs a majority of the members present to add the tollway to the 2040 plan.
Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission Deputy Director Steven Strains said his organization will continue the same analysis and public comment schedule.
“We’re pretty much completing the same work,” Strains said, “but they’re a little ahead on the timetable.”
NIRPC is expected to vote on whether to include the Illiana Expressway in the 2040 plan for Nortwest Indiana.
Contributing: Cindy Wojdyla Cain, Matt Mikus