IDOT secretary sees enough votes for Illiana
By Casey toner firstname.lastname@example.org October 15, 2013 9:20PM
Updated: November 17, 2013 10:02AM
Illinois Transportation Secretary Anne Schneider believes there are enough votes to move forward the planned construction of the Illiana Expressway and qualify it for federal funds.
Schneider made the comments ahead of a crucial vote Thursday by the policy committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization on whether to include the project in the long-range regional transportation plan. Schneider chairs the committee.
The project needs to be included in the Go to 2040 plan, which outlines roughly $360 billion in transportation spending between now and 2040, for it to obtain federal funds. Only $10 billion of the regional plan’s funding is reserved for new projects such as the Illiana Expressway.
Schneider said she has met with several members of the policy committee to address their concerns with the project, which makes her “very optimistic,” about its passage.
“I feel like we have had the opportunity to meet with people and show them all the research that we’ve done and all the work we have put into the project,” she said. “Based on our conversation, I feel confident we will get the requisite number of votes we need to move this process forward.”
Transportation analysts disagree on the need for the 47-mile tollway, which would be built through a private/public partnership to connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington with Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.
The board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which is heavily influenced by Cook County and Chicago interests, voted last week against the Illiana Expressway, contending that it will cost much more than the projected $1.3 billion and its benefits for economic development and traffic relief will be negligible.
Supporters say it would provide another major east-west highway through northeastern Illinois and relieve traffic on I-80, which is needed because truck traffic is fast increasing in Will County in light of the growth of intermodal centers, where train and truck cargo are exchanged. The state transportation departments in Illinois and Indiana have planned the project.
Schneider acknowledged the difference separating the state’s position from that of Cook County and Chicago officials regarding the need for the tollway. But she said its construction would have a strong impact on “keeping development closer to the urban core” of the region.