Why we oppose the Illiana Expressway - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Why we oppose the Illiana Expressway

For almost 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been a proactive force on the Chicago region’s civic stage, fighting for improvements that will help grow the economy, improve job access, reduce inequities and put us on a path to a sustainable future. Much of MPC’s work has promoted the region’s South Suburbs, from economic development and workforce housing to stormwater management and improved freight transportation.

In spring 2013, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) asked the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to add the Illiana Expressway to the region’s GO TO 2040 long-term transportation plan, a requirement for the use of federal transportation dollars for the road. The Illiana is a proposed 47-mile highway that would connect I-55 and I-65 south of the developed sections of the Chicago region, in Illinois and Indiana. The road has been discussed for decades, but only been subject to an environmental review since 2010.

Because of the sheer size of the proposed project, both in terms of length and cost, MPC staff began an in-depth evaluation of the Expressway in May 2013. The results of that evaluation, summarized in our comments to CMAP about the project and detailed in a questions and answers document, provide clear evidence about the road’s costs and benefits.

MPC’s evaluation shows that IDOT’s projected $1.3 billion Illiana price tag, itself a potentially low figure, would result in almost no improvement in terms of congestion—including on roads in the surrounding area; would produce fewer than 1,000 long-term jobs; would expand the regional economy by an insignificant amount; and would effectively redistribute jobs and population from the center of the region, where GO TO 2040 argues growth should be prioritized, to the far south exurbs and Indiana.

Based on our research, MPC has determined that the Illiana would provide few benefits in exchange for high and uncertain costs. MPC opposes the Expressway’s inclusion in GO TO 2040. Read our media release for MPC's full analysis and opinion.

View our supporting documentation:


  1. 1. John L. Gann, Jr. on September 6, 2013

    Thanks for info on Illiana in PFD format for printing out and reading later. This is an important issue.

  2. 2. Dlg on September 7, 2013

    The Illiana plan does not jeopardize the other projects. These "reports" postulate that taxpayers may be responsible for 2/3 the cost. Misleading but indirectly has some truth as the taxpayers will pay for the Illiana over the course of 30 to 40 years. What these "reports" fail to mention is advantage of using the p3 contract model, allowing a project to go forward now with long term financing. please note that the CTA is investigating the use of a P3 contract for this project. Also note that Indiana and many other states use public private partnership contracts successfully. The reality is our state has no money and if we want to continue to see projects like the Illiana and the Red Line extension go forward, we will need to consider alternate financing. The Illiana makes sense as a means for our state to collect tolls from truckers who are not going into Chicago but are moving freight across our state. Stopping this project accomplishes nothing except stopping our progress as a state to get out of the mess we are in.

  3. 3. therealist from lowell, indiana on September 9, 2013

    We are writing to show our approval of the proposed Illiana Tollway to be built on the current route (B3).

    The project is long overdue and presents numerous benefits for the Southern Chicagoland area.

    A few specific examples are:

    -Anyone who is familiar with the east west journey along 80/94, route 30, or route 2/17, would understand that there needs to be an alternative for truck traffic.

    -There are numerous small towns on this southerly sprawl that need less of this truck traffic on their 'local' roads; Lowell, Grant Park, Chicago Heights, and Olympia Fields are a few that readily come to mind.

    -As indicated in the August 25 NWI Times newspaper, Crown Point and St. John rank 4th and 5th in a Chicagoland study of housing starts, this shows that the housing sprawl is already here, and future traffic on local roads will increase. There has to be an alternative to keep trucks off our local roads.

    -This project will provide for a steady growth rate in the region and continue to enhance the area with diversity and opportunities.

    The time to approve this infrastructure initiative is now. We need both jobs and steady growth for the region.
    If this doesn't happen now, the ability to build this road will deminish substantially and the costs increase dramatically!

    Thank you.

  4. 4. Gene Mierzwa on September 22, 2013

    A P3 partnership would result in the same type of debacle that has citizens up in arms in Chicago about the parking meters.

  5. 5. jim cizmar from lowell on October 4, 2013

    After spending 40 million dollars, and 4years of studys they have failed to prove a need for the illiana tollway. By their own tax payer funded study the reduction of traffic on 80/94 would be only 2.4% the chcago tribune ran an article about the city of Elwood sueing the intermodel companys for over exaggerating traffic "expaectations now ..are a fantasy" (aug 25) I live in area and there isn,t any cross traffic, and there are roads already in place they just need to be widened (In. route 10 il route17to kankakee) these just make sense and the trucks (what little of ) use them all the time.

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