Press Release

Press Release: Illiana Questions Remain

For Immediate Release

December 11, 2014

Contact: David Jakubiak

Federal Highway Administration Study Leaves Questions Over Illiana
Taxpayers Remain on the Hook, Vital Natural Areas Remain In Jeopardy

CHICAGO – A final study for the Illiana Tollway pushed out today by the Federal Highway Administration confirms the road will destroy family farmland and underscores the need to kill the billion dollar boondoggle.

“Unfortunately, the highway administration is following IDOT’s effort to rush the proposed Illiana Tollway to judgment during the final days of the current gubernatorial administration,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the 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 the public deserves better from IDOT and the federal highway agency.”

This unneeded billion-dollar expenditure has been twice rejected by the Board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and criticized by editorial boards across the state, yet IDOT and INDOT have continued to push the highway administration to approve their self-serving study.

The Illiana would further 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 Illiana would pave over some of the best farmland in the world, pollute the Kankakee River watershed, and threaten the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Leaders from around the region have expressed concern that the Illiana project would siphon dollars from other transportation projects and undermine planning for a strong Chicago region.”

Earlier this year, IDOT sought legislation in the Illinois General Assembly to advance the road, but was unsuccessful. Still, IDOT claims it intends to begin buying up land for the road as soon as January 2015.

The proposed toll road would overwhelm the rural Will County community where it is proposed to be located, taking 3,165 acres of farmland, impacting centennial farms and ultimately relocating 29 farms. The Illiana would also adversely impact areas of national significance, including the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

“The study shows that traffic noise from the Illiana would drive grassland birds away from vital, protected habitat at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” said Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann. “It would also diminish the experience for increasing numbers of future visitors to this one-of-a-kind place, endangering eco-tourism potential for the surrounding communities. It’s clearer than ever that it’s time to put an end to the Illiana and the mockery it makes of sound regional planning.”