After issuing an executive order to freeze all state contracts for projects in the planning and development stage, Ill. Gov. Rauner has authorized the Illinois State Tollway Authority (ISTA) to proceed with more than $1 billion in projects this year.

The freeze, issued Jan. 12, Rauner's first day as governor, applied to all executive branch agencies, ISTA included. Because ISTA projects are financed by tolls, they do not impact massive state deficit Rauner has vowed to address.

The decision clears the way for ISTA to execute $1.6 billion in project this year, including $840 million in bridge and road work on Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90), a multi-phase project currently under way. ISTA also can proceed with $310 million in work on the Elgin O'Hare Western Access Project this year.

However, the freeze continues to apply to projects undertaken by Illinois Department of Transportation, including plans for more than $200 million in road work in metro Chicago this year.

The freeze also extends to new interstate projects, including the $1.5 billion Illiana Expressway, a planned 47-mile tollway connecting I-65 in northwest Indiana to I-55 in northeast Illinois, about 58 miles south of Chicago. Though the project would be funded, constructed and maintained by a private developer, opponents contend the project wouldn't generate the tolls required to repay the developer, leaving taxpayers to make up the difference. 

Supporters contend the project would relieve congestion on other interstates and create a new corridor for economic development.

To date, Rauner has neither endorsed or opposed Illiana, but indicated the project currently is under review.