* 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.
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.