Gov. Rauner, end current and future Illiana Expressway studies
Seven months ago, we were extremely pleased with Gov. Bruce Rauner who had just announced that he was withdrawing any more funding for the unnecessary and expensive Illiana Expressway.
Yes, we acknowledged at the time there were administrative steps needed to completely end the proposal, which would connect I-55 in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana.
Unfortunately, not all the steps have been completed and the Illiana Expressway apparently is still alive and we must question again why that is.
Daily Herald transportation writer Marni Pyke reported Monday that the Illinois Department of Transportation filed court documents in late 2015 -- months after Rauner said the plan would not move forward -- saying the state agency was committed to addressing problems in the environmental report and will hire consultants to conduct more analyses.
"No decisions have been made at this point on next steps. No funding has been identified or spent. No consultants have been hired," said IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell.
With the state budget stalemate ongoing, that's not surprising. There's not enough money for things that matter, much less for items that don't. Our question and the question others have is why is Illiana still on IDOT's radar in the first place?
"Why is IDOT trying to push this boondoggle." asked Howard Learner, the executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. "It's hard to read that any other way than saying they're looking for money," Learner said. "It's baffling"
Indeed it is. Once again we must call on the governor and IDOT to put this idea to rest. For good. No more money spent or contemplated to spend. As we have stated in the past, planners showed clearly the project would not work as suggested _ tolls would have to be so high truckers would stay on I-80 and I-294 -- and in the process would endanger the environment, especially the nearby Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. It was a political move intended to help gain support for an airport in Peotone.
The idea needs to be jettisoned.
There are plenty of transportation projects that need immediate attention -- relieving traffic in Lake County, for example -- and the state should not be distracted by the Illiana. So we acknowledge Tridgell's claim that the project is "on indefinite hold and no longer part of IDOT's multiyear program."
And we'd like to believe him. But the fact they filed court documents keeping it alive suggests otherwise. There is little reason to continue trying to prove to a federal judge that they've addressed his concerns about shoddy environmental studies if there are no plans to ever move forward.
The next step should be to tell the judge it's unnecessary to waste any more of the court's time or taxpayers' dollars.