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Decades of research shows that expanding roads doesn’t provide lasting congestion relief. More lanes means more traffic.

Fate of Illiana Tollway boondoggle to be determined this week

As criticism of the ill-conceived Illiana Tollway project mounts, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) board and policy committee will hold two critical votes this week to determine whether the 50-mile, four-lane Will County highway should remain in the GO TO 2040 regional plan.

The proposed highway would link Interstate 55 with I-57 and I-65, serving only 8,000 vehicles per day at a cost of over $1 billion. The state is proposing to build the project as a public-private partnership with the state guaranteeing a private operator's costs.

An analysis by CMAP’s own staff completed last year, however, found that the highway’s traffic and toll projects would fall short, leaving taxpayers responsible for filling a gap ranging from $440 million to $1.1 billion.

Active Trans is part of a diverse group of advocacy groups — including Openlands, Sierra Club, Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and Environmental Law and Policy Center — in opposing the project.

Experience shows that building new highways in the Chicago region, particularly in the exurbs where the Illiana would be located, will over time lead to prioritizing investments in infrastructure that promote more driving, more congestion and development patterns that are not conducive to walking, biking and riding public transit.

Active Trans will be testifying against the project at Wednesday’s CMAP board meeting and Thursday’s CMAP policy committee meeting. Both bodies can vote to remove the project from the regional plan but that responsibility ultimately lies with the policy committee under federal law.

Over a 50-day public comment period this summer, more than 1,400 public comments were submitted via letters, emails and in-person public meetings. The Chicago Tribune, Daily HeraldCrain’s Chicago Business and Rockford Star have all editorialized against the project, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle both oppose the project.

Last month, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) put the project on its “boondoggles” list of 11 examples of wasteful spending projects. Let’s hope CMAP votes to remove this black eye from our regional plan this week.

Graphic courtesy of MPC. 

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