Seven months ago, we were extremely pleased with Gov. Bruce Rauner who had just announced that he was withdrawing any more funding for the unnecessary and expensive Illiana Expressway.
Yes, we acknowledged at the time there were administrative steps needed to completely end the proposal, which would connect I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana.
Unfortunately, not all the steps have been completed and the Illiana Expressway apparently is still alive and we must question again why that is.
Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke reported Monday that the Illinois Department of Transportation filed court documents in late 2015 — months after Rauner said the plan would not move forward — saying the state agency was committed to addressing problems in the environmental report and will hire consultants to conduct more analyses.
“No decisions have been made at this point on next steps. No funding has been identified or spent. No consultants have been hired,” said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell.
With the state budget stalemate ongoing, that’s not surprising. There’s not enough money for things that matter, much less for items that don’t. Our question and the question others have is why is Illiana still on IDOT’s radar in the first place?
“Why is IDOT trying to push this boondoggle.” asked Howard Learner, the executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “It’s hard to read that any other way than saying they’re looking for money,” Learner said. “It’s baffling”
Thought dead by many, the Illiana Expressway still clings to life in court, despite Gov. Bruce Rauner’s booting it off IDOT’s radar last year.
And that worries foes of the 50-mile proposed toll road linking I-55 near Wilmington with I-65 in Indiana.
“When the state of Illinois doesn’t have a budget and is under severe financial distress — when core programs for kids and schools are being cut — why is IDOT trying to push this boondoggle?” asked Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
If they keep driving nails into the coffin of the proposed Illiana Expressway, one day they’re going to have to bury it.
At least one would think so. But while the proposed expressway intended to link Illinois and Indiana has proved hard to kill, it is, at best, on life support.
The latest blow to this ill-conceived, unaffordable project came Tuesday when the Federal Highway Administration announced that it will not appeal a federal judge’s decision putting the plan on ice.
U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso ruled in June that environmental impact studies for the project were fatally flawed.
Alonso’s decision came about the same time that Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that the state did not intend to proceed on the Illiana because of “the state’s current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources.”
In addition to the lack of funds to build the Illiana, there was a distinct lack of need. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimated that too few motorists would use the Illiana by 2040 to meet the financial guarantees to the private developers, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference.
Because of that shortfall, the agency predicted the Illiana could end up costing taxpayers “from $440 million to $1 billion.”