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Illiana approved

Friday, Oct 18, 2013

* Daily Herald

Amid a split among suburban leaders, the controversial Illiana Expressway received a shot in the arm Thursday when a planning board endorsed the road, marking a significant political victory for Gov. Pat Quinn.

The Illiana is a proposed tollway linking I-55 in the south suburbs with I-65 in Indiana that would be built as a public-private partnership. While Quinn and the Illinois Department of Transportation are backing it as a vital piece of infrastructure, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning warns it will cost taxpayers up to $1.1 billion.

CMAP’s powerful Metropolitan Planning Organization policy committee voted 11 to 8 in favor of putting the roadway on the GO TO 2040 plan, which now makes it eligible for federal funding. The MPO includes county board chairman, transit agencies and transportation industry representatives.

* Tribune

The toll road through Will County would connect Interstate 55 at Wilmington, I-57 near Peotone and I-65 near Lowell, Ind. Supporters said it would create 9,000 short-term jobs and generate thousands more over the next three decades.

In a separate vote, the Policy Committee also gave IDOT the authority to spend more than $80 million for more engineering and land acquisition. IDOT has already spent about $40 million in planning work on the project. […]

Voting in favor of the Illiana were the county chairmen or their representatives from Will, DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Lake counties, along with officials from the Illinois Tollway, Metra and Pace.

Opponents included representatives from Cook and McHenry counties, the city of Chicago and the CTA and the Regional Transportation Authority.

The RTA has, as a matter of routine, dissed the south suburbs for years on transit projects. Now its hostility has extended to privately backed toll roads. Sheesh.

* What’s next

Now, the project is set to go out to bid in early November, according to Illinois Transportation Secretary Anne Schneider, who chairs the policy committee. The state is looking for proposals from investment firms that are partnered with engineering and contracting companies.

Schneider said the Federal Highway Administration also needs to approve environmental studies before construction begins on the highway, which she hopes will happen by the end of 2014 or early in 2015.

* However, litigation is almost guaranteed

Chicago’s Environmental Law and Policy Center, an Illiana foe, is “reviewing all of our legal options,” according to deputy executive director Kevin Brubaker.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - DuPage - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:08 am:

    Litigation may or may not delay things very much. I remember there were a couple thousand lawsuits filed by farmers over the east-west toll way (now I-88). When it went to court, a judge consolidated it into one big case. Then he proceeded to dismiss the case.

  2. - Ron Burgundy - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:13 am:

    If the legal entanglements take half as long as they did for the I-355 extension between I-55 and I-80 in the SW burbs, there are many years to go for this project.

  3. - wordslinger - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:24 am:

    It must drive Emanuel crazy that he can’t beat Quinn.

  4. - Been There - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:26 am:

    I am all for the project as I take I-65 to I-80 a few times a year and there is definitely a need to cut down on that bottle neck. But I think they should have chosen the path farther north. The one that would have taken it north of the proposed airport. That would be closer to the people already in the area and would get more use. Land would be more expensive but the farther south route might make it hard to get enough users.
    Also, they need to extend I-394 south to hook up with this road.

  5. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:34 am:

    I understand the exurban sprawl concerns and loss of farmland concerns, but still glad this was passed.

    I also wish the ELPC, which I think overall does good work, would move to other matters now. The issue of the petroleum coke piles outside the BP refinery splashed across the trib website right now could be a good one to tackle for instance.

  6. - Chicago Publius - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:41 am:

    I wonder about Environmental Law & Policy Center’s opposition to this. They were happy to get behind Quinn and his pals when they gave away millions of dollars to the Class I railroads, so they could improve their private property with no guarantees of faster or more reliable passenger-rail service. If the Illiana will cut into freight-rail shipments, that might explain EPLC’s opposition.

  7. - Plutocrat03 - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:41 am:

    All boils dow to the numbers. What is the amount of money the states will be required to put up? Whos ox will be gored when the funds are diverted?

    Great if it is free, but how will the proposal stack up in competition with other projects that have been in the planning stages for many more years?

  8. - Commuter - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:46 am:

    Is there a proposed map of the expressway?

  9. - Last Bull Moose - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:47 am:

    This is a chance to bid the road design, construction, and maintenance as a package. This could lead to much lower lifetime costs.
    In a power plant bid the cost of the boiler went up 40 percent when the boiler manufacturer was also responsible for maintenance costs and uptime guarantees. But lifetime costs fell by even more.

  10. - ~pfft - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 11:55 am:


  11. - DuPage Dave - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 12:07 pm:

    The next logical move is to extend this road from Wilmington up to Morris. Otherwise the traffic coming north through Indiana on 65 headed for 80 west will have to backtrack north on 55.

  12. - OneMan - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    Curious why the RTA was against this.. As for the RTA not liking the South Suburbs, having grown up there I can say that is true.

  13. - Six Degrees of Separation - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 12:17 pm:

    @Chicago Publius-

    FYI, the Class I railroads, who had a seat on the CMAP vote, voted yes for the Illiana. Probably because what’s good for the intermodal truckers is good for the railroads too.

    Filing lawsuits can be out of genuine concern for the environment, and hopefully providing more environmentally friendly amenities to the project if they can’t stop it. There is also the possibility of taking people’s money and fund-raising and making work for lawyers, playing on people’s fears and hopes. I would hope it’s more of the former than the latter.

  14. - FP_J - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 12:22 pm:

    I’m pretty disappointed to see all of the anecdotal “I sat in traffic last weekend, therefore the Illiana must be built” reasoning in the comments on these posts. The reality is that it will divert only a small fraction of the traffic off of 80/294/94—according to IDOT’s own estimates.

    And Rich: the idea that this is a privately backed toll road is a fiction. The public will pay to do the $160 million studies. What’s more, Yonah Freemark has noted that “[d]espite the fact that IDOT holds the project up as a model public-private partnership (it will be a toll road), that arrangement will require availability payments to a private builder-maintainer-operator, which require a state guarantee over the long term and the state is likely to have to subsidize those payments above and beyond toll revenues.”* If this is such a viable toll road proposal, why doesn’t the Illinois Tollway build it?

    Beyond that, this represents a break down in rational transportation planning. Since this will cost the public money, and there is only so much money to go around, we need to _prioritize_ our investments. For a good post on this issue, see the blog post at the link below.


  15. - cod - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 12:37 pm:

    I just cannot see what this road will do for the region, even if the Prairie Parkway were to be be built. It doesnt create a significant shortcut for cross country trucks, and doesnt connect any urban or manufacturing centers.

    This raises thoughts about whether this is a pork project.

  16. - Rollo Tomasi - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    While strongly in favor of this project I am very strongly opposed to the third airport. I find myself looking at the third airport as the biggest white elephant in the history of Illinois. Without a MAJOR carrier signing on to the project with prior financial backing they should never turn over one shovel of dirt on that project. If one of the big three airlines do not make that a hub it will never fly. The highway will have immediate positive effects with very minimal effects.

    Is it only me but I find myself opposing everything Rahm supports and supporting everything he opposes? I just don’t trust that man.

  17. - Mighty M. Mouse - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 1:30 pm:

    === It must drive Emanuel crazy that he can’t beat Quinn. ===

    As former Gov. Jim Edgar explained a month ago, “Whether people are fond of him or not, he’s the governor and he’s going to be governor for another year and a half. That’s a lot of leverage.”

    Quinn spent decades on the outside looking in at those who held power. He was labeled a gadfly and that reputation has lived on, even though his circumstances changed radically and unexpectedly.

    Perpetually belittled but perfectly intelligent, he has continually improved his handling of the reins of power and that’s why it seems like Rahm can’t beat Quinn. The fact that he’s always been underestimated only made it that much easier for him to slowly tighten his grip, little by little, just like Squeezy, the pernicious pension python.

  18. - Huh? - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 1:48 pm:

    I am not sure where the project is in the NEPA process, however, just because CMAP voted to included in the 2040 plan, there is still a long ways to go before the FHWA approves the EIS and Record of Decision. The lawsuits can challenge the findings in the EIS and ROD.

    INDOT has experience with a P3 project in the Louisville area. The East End Crossing of the Ohio River Bridge Project was advertised as a P3, where the builder is a consortium of financiers, construction and maintainers. The winning team was headed by Walsh Construction along with a french construction company and a german finance company. They are fronting the money to design, build and maintain the project. They will get reimbursed by the Indiana Finance Authority via an availability payment funded by tolls. In the event that the tolls don’t cover the availability payment, Indiana is on the hook to make up the difference. Construction for this project is underway with a completion date some time in 2016.

    I can see why the Tollway doesn’t want to build the project. There is nothing to connect to their existing system.

    By the way - Avoid Louisville, KY until January 2017. Construction has I-65, I-64, and I-71 torn up until the end of 2016.

  19. - hisgirlfriday - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 1:53 pm:

    @ChicagoPublius - I believe that the ELPC favors rail travel over highways in general so I’m not seeing their conflict there.

    Also their Website says their Illiana representation has been on behalf of Sierra Club, OpenLands and Midewin Heritage Association, whatever that is.

  20. - Anonymous - Friday, Oct 18, 13 @ 2:33 pm:

    Shouldn’t policy choices about rail travel vs. highways be made by policymakers in legislatures and agencies, not in courtrooms by judges? Why does ELPC think using the courts to impose their policy choices is a good thing?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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