In an encouraging sign, recently inaugurated Governor Bruce Rauner has issued an executive order putting the ill-conceived Illiana Tollway and other major infrastructure projects on hold pending a “careful review of costs and benefits.”
There’s no timetable for the review, but mulling the costs and benefits of the proposed South Suburban highway shouldn’t take long. The evidence clearly shows the sprawl-inducing project would not be an efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars.
The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion. The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs, but there are lots of questions and skepticism about the politically motivated project’s actual financial viability.
Prior to him issuing the executive order, there were signs Rauner may be rethinking the project that former Gov. Quinn championed.
Rauner’s appointee to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), Randy Blankenhorn, is currently the head of Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which issued a damning report on the project last year.
The analysis found that the highway’s traffic and toll projections would fall way short, leaving taxpayers responsible for filling a gap ranging from $440 million to $1.1 billion.
In addition, a report from Rauner’s transition team indicated he planned to “pause and review major infrastructure projects” in his first 100 days. It also calls for prioritizing investments based on performance goals and “rigorous economic, environmental and equity criteria” -- areas where the Illiana rates very poorly.
Active Trans is part of a diverse group of advocacy organizations -- including Openlands, Sierra Club, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) -- in opposing to the project. We believe taxpayer dollars could be better spent on infrastructure priorities that carry far greater benefits, like upgrading rapid transit and commuter rail lines, and critical projects like CTA’s planned Red Line South Extension.