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Illiana Expressway foes sue, say process is flawed

Updated: August 13, 2013 6:43AM



Three conservation groups on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago that says the Illiana Expressway approval process has been flawed and the road shouldn’t be built.

Lawyers representing Openlands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association say the Federal Highway Administration should not have approved an environmental study that paves the way for the 47-mile road because the study was based on flawed population and employment projections.

The Illiana, which would stretch from Interstate 55 near Wilmington to Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind., also is contrary to land-use plans developed by regional planning groups in each state, the lawsuit says.

Also, the lawsuit contends that the Illinois and Indiana departments of transportation “ ... failed to establish the need for the road and properly evaluate alternatives to the proposed tollway route,” according to a press release issued by the conservation groups.

“This decision undermines approved comprehensive regional land-use and transportation plans and threatens globally significant wildlife habitats such as Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” the press release continued.

Openlands President and CEO Jerry Adelmann said building the costly road where there is no demonstrated need is “foolhardy.”

“The proposed Illiana tollway route would harm important Will County treasures including the Midewin grassland, Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, and the high-quality Kankakee River,” Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in the press release. “Instead we need a transportation plan that meets the population forecasts and principles of our region’s award-winning Go to 2040 plan.”

Illinois Department of Transportation officials, who recently fast-tracked the $1.3 billion Illiana and recommended it be a tollway constructed through a public-private partnership, were reviewing the lawsuit Thursday and declined comment.



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