EDITORIAL: CMAP disputes details, still shows benefits

2013-08-12T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: CMAP disputes details, still shows benefits nwitimes.com
August 12, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis that questions the estimated costs and benefits for the Illiana Expressway needs to be re-examined.

Underlying much of CMAP's criticism is lack of knowledge about the project's details, through no fault of that agency.

The Illiana Expressway project is moving quickly, as these projects go. Sure, it was first proposed by Daniel Burnham more than a century ago, but real action on the proposal has been just within the last several years.

Building it as a public-private partnership will make construction affordable, but the details aren't known yet because the plan is still being shopped around. Some of the details aren't known or can't be released as a result.

Still, CMAP's conclusions are worth noting. The Illinois planning agency quibbles with the predicted benefits from the construction of the south suburban connector route but doesn't say there won't be benefits.

The agency says there will be a $425 million boost to the gross regional product by 2040, compared to the Illinois Department of Transportation's $2 billion estimate.

Even if CMAP's much lower figure is used, there will still be nearly half a billion dollars generated because of the road.

CMAP also is concerned about the environmental impact of the road, but the agency said, "Low impact development practices, such as rain gardens, swales and infiltration basins, can be used to capture and treat runoff." That must happen.

CMAP further questions the cost of the plan, but the use of public-private partnership, with tolls going to the company paying for the road construction, would seem to address that issue.

The new expressway is controversial, to be sure, with some environmental groups suing to prevent construction and with the not-in-my-back-yard crowd making noise about it.

But this is a project for the entire region, not just the section the road would cross between I-65 and I-55. It would relieve congestion from U.S. 30 and the Borman Expressway, among other roads, by creating a quick, less congested way to avoid the existing thoroughfares. The Illiana Expressway remains a necessary, but missing, link in the Chicago area's transportation network. It must be built.

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