Ding dong, the Illiana is dead - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Ding dong, the Illiana is dead

Metropolitan Planning Council

Done, finished, kaput, stick a fork in it. Rauner's latest actions to trim Illinois' out of balance budget effectively killed the ill-advised Illiana Expressway. That it occurred quietly in a press release amongst a host of other budget cutting measures without a lot of fanfare or a party is disappointing, but I’ll take it; the end result is the same.

To refresh, the Illiana is (or shall I say was) a $1.3b roadway in southern Will County that when complete would have carried fewer vehicles than Chicago’s Ashland Avenue, which carries 27,000 vehicles a day. Compare that to say the Eisenhower Expressway which carries a more normal amount for a highway—163,000 per day. No matter how you measure it, the Illiana didn't stack up.

Many claimed it would be funded by private dollars as a public private partnership, so why should we care if it loses money? Though I have long been a proponent of this innovative financing method, in the case of the Illiana, the public would still be on the hook to repay that private investment to the tune of over a $1b; tolls from the users of the Illiana were projected to make up the difference.

To prevent such boondoggles in the future, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) remains a staunch proponent of robust performance measures for evaluating future capital projects in the region and across Illinois. The good news on that front is that when Ill. Dept. of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn was running Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, he shepherded some of the best regional performance measures in the country through the GO TO 2040 planning process. Measures should include not only the traditional safety and mobility measures common among transportation plans but also measurements for economic development, improved social equity and environmental benefits.

Today MPC celebrates the demise of the Illiana, but tomorrow we'll continue fight for progressive performance measures to make sure this doesn't happen again.


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