Planning board votes against 'Illiana'

A Chicago agency has demonstrated its opposition to a proposed toll road linking Illinois and Indiana.

A billion-dollar highway ‘mega-project’ to link outer Chicago and Indiana is proving a tough sell politically.

The ‘Illiana Corridor,’ a proposed 47-mile toll road, is a “highway to nowhere land,” according to the chairman of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) board, which snubbed the project in a 10-to-4 decision.

The Agency board vote on Wednesday marked the second official ruling on the $1.3 billion undertaking. The CMAP transportation committee earlier voted 10-to-7 in favour of Illiana despite a highly critical internal analysis of the project.

The Agency planning committee has the final say on whether or not CMAP will back the project. CMAP is responsible for developing regional transportation planning in northeast Illinois. Its approval is needed if Illiana is to obtain federal funding.

Enabling public-private partnership (PPP; P3) legislation for the cross-state Illiana project was effected in 2010 in Illinois as well as Indiana.

Pat Quinn, a Democrat who was elected governor of Illinois in 2009, has been a steadfast supporter of the project. By 2012, CMAP made Illiana a point of contention, suggesting the Corridor cut in to its long-term transportation agenda.

Gerald Bennett, CMAP chairman, alleged Wednesday his department is under pressure from Quinn to approve Illiana, claiming the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is withholding funding because of its lack of support for the project.

In September, both Illinois and Indiana agreed to pursue alternative financing and innovative delivery separately in order to procure the highway.

IDOT, in coordination with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and Indiana Finance Authority (IFA), announced each agency would publish a request for information (RFI) for Illiana in the autumn.

The Corridor would be a greenfield controlled access highway connecting Interstate 55 (I-55) in Illinois to Interstate 65 (I-65) in Indiana.