By Tammy Webber
CHICAGO, Ill. (AP) – A Chicago-area planning agency voted to proceed with a $1.3 billion expressway between Indiana and Illinois, ignoring criticism from its own board of directors that the project was an expensive boondoggle, and pleas from landowners that it would destroy rich farmland.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s policy committee voted 11-8 to include the so-called Illiana tollway linking Interstate 55 in Will County, Ill., and Interstate 65 in Lake County, Ind., in its long-term development plan for the region. The step was necessary for the project to receive federal funding.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence have pushed hard for the 47-mile link, promising it would help speed goods by truck, reduce congestion and create thousands of jobs. They also say private investors will be sought to pay most of the cost for building, operating and maintaining the road under a 35-year deal, with tolls repaying state debt.
Quinn responded quickly after the vote, saying in a statement that the expressway “marks a major victory for economic development and jobs.”
Will County Executive Lawrence Walsh, a committee member who voted in favor of the plan, said the county is one of the nation’s largest intermodal transportation hubs, and the tollway is needed to get heavy trucks off of local roads.
But Will County board member Ragan Freitag said not all residents support the roadway and some of her constituents left the meeting crying.
“They’re losing their homes, they’re losing their farms and they’re losing their livelihood,” Freitag said.
The Illinois Department of Transportation has said the tollway would create 9,000 short-term and 28,000 long-term jobs and eventually could generate up to $500 million for the state to use on other projects.1 2 next >>