Defeats take toll on road plan

Defeats take toll on road plan

Is this the end of the road for the Illiana Expressway project?

If they keep driving nails into the coffin of the proposed Illiana Expressway, one day they're going to have to bury it.

At least one would think so. But while the proposed expressway intended to link Illinois and Indiana has proved hard to kill, it is, at best, on life support.

The latest blow to this ill-conceived, unaffordable project came Tuesday when the Federal Highway Administration announced that it will not appeal a federal judge's decision putting the plan on ice.

U.S. Judge Jorge Alonso ruled in June that environmental impact studies for the project were fatally flawed.

Alonso's decision came about the same time that Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that the state did not intend to proceed on the Illiana because of "the state's current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources."

In addition to the lack of funds to build the Illiana, there was a distinct lack of need. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning estimated that too few motorists would use the Illiana by 2040 to meet the financial guarantees to the private developers, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference.

Because of that shortfall, the agency predicted the Illiana could end up costing taxpayers "from $440 million to $1 billion."

The proposed 47-mile toll road was designed to run east from Interstate 55 in Will County, cross I-57 near Peotone and move into Indiana to connect with I-65 near Lowell. It was intended as a public/private partnership involving Illinois, Indiana and private developers.

Supporters suggested that it would relieve congestion on the I-80/94 corridor, and the plan was backed by labor unions that wanted construction work for their members and by commercial interests in Joliet. But the proposal drew strong opposition from residents and farmers along the proposed route as well as those who contended the road was both costly and unnecessary.

The big question now is whether this is really the end of the Illiana. The decision to drop the appeal means that the federal bureaucrats would have to start over on environmental impact studies and re-examine the question of need.

Given all the questions that have been raised, what's the point of starting from square one? There isn't one.

The Illiana coffin has enough nails in it. It's time to bury it once and for all.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion