Environmental groups sue over Illiana Expressway approval

Openlands Policy Coordinator Stacy Meyers explains how truck traffic generated by the proposed Illiana Expressway would affect wetlands at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie during a tour of the 19,000-acre nature preserve in 2014.

CHICAGO | Illinois environmental groups have filed a lawsuit over the proposed Illiana Expressway. They claim federal approval relied on faulty information and didn't adequately consider environmental impacts.

The complaint was filed May 21 in U.S. District Court in Chicago on behalf of Openlands, the Midewin Heritage Association and the Sierra Club.

It claims the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and Illinois and Indiana officials relied on inflated population, job and traffic forecasts to justify the $1.5 billion, 47-mile link between northern Illinois and Indiana.

It also says reviewers failed to adequately consider potential harm to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.

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This lawsuit comes on top of one filed by environmental groups in federal court in 2013 challenging an earlier study of the expressway. Environmental groups subsequently filed another lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court in 2014 challenging procedures for its approval at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Both of those suits are pending, with the first one fully briefed and awaiting a decision.

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Critics say the public-private partnership will leave taxpayers on the hook if toll revenue falls short.

Illinois and Indiana have suspended work on the project pending a cost-benefit review.