Contact: David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713 or DJakubiak@elpc.org
CHICAGO – Carrying boxes filled with 12,856 petitions that call on Governor Bruce Rauner to end the costly, unneeded Illiana Tollway proposal, residents of Will County brought their fight over the troubled roadway to the Thompson Center on Wednesday, saying it is a threat to taxpayers, farmland and their rural lifestyle.
“When this process began we worried that we were alone, but the overwhelming response to this petition drive from taxpayers across the state lets me know that we have a chance to stop this boondoggle before it goes any further,” said Virginia Hamann, who lives close to the proposed road’s path and leads the local grassroots group No Illiana 4 Us.
Hamman’s group collected more than 4,500 petitions from residents who would be impacted by the proposal. Other petitions were gathered from Illinoisans from across the state by groups including the Sierra Club, Openlands, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Active Transportation Alliance and Illinois PIRG.
Judy Ogalla, who represents District 1 on the Will County Board, was not surprised by the widespread opposition to the costly proposal. “It is reckless to plan to spend billions of dollars on a new road that has forecasts of minimal usage,” she said. “We have many roads and bridges in the state of Illinois that are in desperate need of repair.”
David Dodd, manager of Fratrans Trucking Company in Wilmington, IL, said the proposed road would run right over the company’s property, but what’s even worse, he said it would go unused. “It will cost truck drivers as much as $40 either way to use the tollway,” he said. “Trust me, truck drivers don’t spend their money that way.”
The group was also joined by Eli Geiss, President of the Village of Symerton, who noted that the proposal runs against the agricultural heritage of his hometown. “We do not want the pollution that the trucks will give off. We do not want the diesel and salt runoff that will poison our wells and Jordan Creek.”
A pet project of former Governor Pat Quinn, the Illiana Tollway would indebt state taxpayers and destroy vital natural areas. To attract a contractor to the so-called “public-private partnership,” the Illinois Department of Transportation would mandate taxpayer support of the private contractor for 39 years. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) has projected that the road would cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion, diverting funding that could be used to relieve congestion and repair crumbling roads and bridges across the state.
The first executive order issued by Governor Rauner effectively froze the proposed project in mid-January, but the Will County residents are calling on the Governor to pull the plug on the project.
What They Are Saying About the Proposed Illiana Tollway
Several local, statewide and national advocacy groups have supported Will County residents in opposing the deeply flawed Illiana Tollway proposal. Here’s what they are saying about the project now:
Howard Learner, Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center: “The Illiana Tollway is a financial boondoggle that’s a waste of Illinois taxpayers’ money and would harm the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. There are better, more sensible alternatives, and thousands of people across the state agree that it is time to end the Illiana and focus on smarter transportation projects.”
Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter: “The Illiana would pave over some of the best farmland in the world, pollute the Kankakee River watershed, and threaten the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. More than 10,000 people across our state have joined with leaders from around the region and expressed concern that the Illiana project would siphon dollars from other transportation projects and undermine planning for a strong Chicago region.”
Jerry Adelmann, Openlands President and CEO: “The Illiana Tollway runs counter to every conceivable concept of sound regional planning. The Illinoisans who signed this petition understand that the proposed tollway would negatively impact or destroy farmland, communities, and open space, including vital natural areas like Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. It is time to put an end to the Illiana and the mockery it makes of sensible long-term planning.”
Ron Burke, Active Transportation Alliance: “These petitions vividly capture that the Illiana Tollway would not solve any transportation issues in Will County but would negatively impact other needed projects across the state. It’s time to advance transportation initiatives that solve problems, instead of creating new ones.”
Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG: “The message of the signers is that we need to move forward. The first thing that needs to happen is that the Illiana needs to be removed from the approved project list for future transportation funding. Its current position atop that lists puts every other project under uncertainty. Illinois needs to be able to plan and prioritize for future infrastructure investments, not keep propping up this zombie highway.”