Updated: November 17, 2013 6:32AM
As the sponsor of legislation creating the Illiana Expressway, I am watching with interest recent media reports questioning the need and cost of this roadway. Let me be clear: the need for the Illiana Expressway has never been greater. The Southland continues to be one of the fastest-growing areas in Illinois with infrastructure development lagging behind.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) based their analyses on hypotheticals and seem more geared to provincial political concerns than project facts. In the Southland, we call this Chicago politics as usual.
CMAP claims that it wants to encourage growth around the urban core and has said that this project goes against its long-range planning goals. If that is the case, how must planning for Will County continue? If it is not to be considered part of regional planning efforts, how do we factor in population growth that is actually happening?
IDOT used an apples-to-apples comparison in its analysis, which shows much lower costs for the highway that are far more accurate than CMAP’s hypotheticals and guesswork. I’m inclined to go with IDOT’s estimate. IDOT builds roads. CMAP bureaucrats and ivory-towered media elite appear to be making up statistics to justify the continued neglect of the Southland.
Numerous studies show the Illiana Expressway is a minimal financial risk for taxpayers. In fact, because the highway will be built through a public-private partnership, if bids come in too high, it will not be built, plain and simple. If you believe in the free market system, why not let the market determine whether this highway is viable?
Illinois’ interstate highways are the “crossroads of the nation.” Will we continue the needed investment to keep this title? Or will we lack the foresight to invest in our infrastructure and create good-paying jobs? I received no clearer mandate than that our communities are suffering. I heard it, loud and clear. We need jobs now.
Illinois is truly approaching a crossroads. There are those who say that this road is being built in “Nowhere Land.” On behalf of the 1.8 million people who live and raise families in the Southland, this mentality is indicative of the bias against our region that we have been dealing with for decades.
State Sen. Toi Hutchinson