Chicago group opposes Illiana Expressway

2013-09-04T17:00:00Z 2013-09-05T08:38:03Z Chicago group opposes Illiana ExpresswayKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
September 04, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

An influential Chicago-region development organization has come out swinging against the Illiana Expressway, challenging boosters' most basic arguments for the road.

The Metropolitan Planning Council in a posting on its website states construction of the 47-mile road will divert funds needed for other major road projects, produce far fewer jobs than boosters claim and will not solve freight congestion.

The MPC has completed an analysis of the proposed Illiana Expressway and found it will not deliver enough benefits to justify its more than $1 billion price tag, said MPC Executive Vice President Peter Skosey.

Specifically, the MPC is urging the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to vote "no" on including the Illiana Expressway in its Go To 2040 plan, which could effectively kill it. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for planning is expected to vote at its meeting Oct. 9.

"Really, the question we asked is for that $1 billion are we getting a good return?" Skosey said. "And could we spend that money somewhere else and get a better return? And we believe No. 1 we are not getting a good return with the Illiana and No. 2 we could get a better return elsewhere."

In a finding sure to challenge some of the bistate unity on the project, the report from MPC states the expressway would send 7,000 Cook County residents and 5,000 Cook County jobs packing, mainly for the greener fields of Indiana.

MPC's rejection of the expressway is the latest in a string of blows directed against the planned bistate connector in the past several months. Several environmental groups have come out against it, a lawsuit has been filed, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning has questioned some of the basic assumptions made by boosters.

Last week, the Illiana Corridor Planning Group, which was formed by the two state departments of transportation, issued a statement challenging many of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's arguments against the road.

The Illiana Corridor Planning Group argues the road can be paid for with tolls, will create 28,000 long-term jobs, and reduce vehicle miles of travel on arterials in the region by 26 million miles annually.

The statement also points out the $40 million put into planning the road will be wasted if the project does not go forward.

By contrast, the MPC report claims the road will generate only about one-third the tolls needed to pay for it, create only about 940 permanent jobs, and do little to reduce congestion with only a 1 percent drop in hours traveled by trucks.

Skosey said MPC relied on INDOT data for 90 percent of its analysis and believes the results are accurate.

The Illiana Expressway would run from Interstate 65 in Indiana, just east of Lowell, to Interstate 55 in Illinois, near Wilmington.

The MPC has been in existence almost 80 years and it counts among its board of governors numerous executives from some of the Chicago region's most prominent companies.

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