Illiana Expressway Project on hold; Opponents petition to keep it that way

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WILMINGTON, Ill. -- Some Illinois residents say they know how Gov. Rauner can cut costs and save the state money: Kill the Illiana Expressway Project.

The project started back in in 2010. Then-Governors Pat Quinn in Illinois and Mitch Daniels in Indiana signed an agreement to come together and create the Illiana expressway. The idea was to create a 47-mile expressway that would connect I-55 in Wilmington through I-57 to I-65 in Lowell, Indiana. The goal is to relieve congestion along I-80 and help bring in business.

But last month, Gov. Rauner issued an executive order putting the project on hold in order to review its potential costs and benefits.

Tomorrow, opponents of the project will deliver 10,000 signatures to the Illinois Dept of Transportation urging Gov. Rauner to say no to the project. Among them - Joyce and Larry Readman.

The Readman’s Wilmington property has been in the family for four generations. They lost part of their farming land to I-55 and now stand to lose another 10 acres to the Illiana Expressway.

“It`s taking away future income,” Larry says. “The property will be worth nothing.”

The couple has helped gather signatures for a petition asking Gov Rauner to kill the project.

“It’s going to affect a lot of people in its path,” he says.

But those for it say the Illiana is necessary to accommodate the growing truck traffic along I-80.

In the last five years, Burlington Northern and Union Pacific intermodal rail yards both came to Will County.

The Will County Center for Economic Development says each day more than 25,000 semis come in and out of those two facilities.

A 2013 study by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning argued that the effect on traffic congestion would be “negligible” and that taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $1.1 billion dollars over the next 35 years. That’s because the proposed agreement says the Illiana would be a toll-way in a public-private partnership. If the tolls expected aren`t collected by the contractor, the public would pay.

Gov Rauner’s office says it’s continuing to review the project.

His office told made a statement to WGN News saying, “ Illinois is in a financial crisis and review of these projects is necessary to ensure we`re spending taxpayer money on essential projects.”

The federal government has given the project the green light but it’s on hold in both states now waiting for Gov Rauner`s study.

If it`s killed, The Will County Economic Development says it will have to find another alternate to the Illiana because it maintains there is a need for a bypass for all the truck traffic.

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