Feds approve $1.5B Illiana Expressway

Project faces opposition from landowners and environmental groups.

Illinois and Indiana got a green light last Thursday to keep moving forward on plans for a controversial toll road linking the two states.

In a joint announcement, the states said the Federal Highway Administration signed off on the planning phase for the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway, signaling that officials can now move the project into an implementation phase.

Next up for the 50-mile roadway will be the continued exploration of a public-private partnership to finance the road, as well as the start of land acquisition.

The expressway, envisioned to help motorists bypass heavy traffic congestion in Chicago, would link Interstate 55 near Wilmington in Illinois with Interstate 65 near Lowell in Indiana.

Landowners, environmental groups and regional planning officials say the road will be an expensive boondoggle that will take farmland out of production and provide few benefits for drivers.

“The Illiana would pave over some of the best farmland in the world, pollute the Kankakee River watershed, and threaten the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter. “Leaders from around the region have expressed concern that the Illiana project would siphon dollars from other transportation projects and undermine planning for a strong Chicago region."

Supporters say the road will create construction jobs and serve as an economic catalyst.

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Source: The Southern Illinoisan