Federal Judge Strikes Blow to Illiana Tollway Project
A U.S. District Court Judge on Tuesday ruled that an environmental review for Illiana Tollway, a proposed $1.5-billion, 47-mile tollway linking Illinois and Indiana, is “faulty,” thereby invalidating a 2013 endorsement for the project by the Federal Highway Administration.
U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Alonso, who granted a summary judgment requested by the Environmental Law an Policy Center, characterized the environmental review and record of decision required to proceed with the project “arbitrary and capricious” and in violation of federal law.
The decision was the second blow to the project in as many weeks. On June 2, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner instructed the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to remove Illiana from its current multi-year plan.
“In light of the state's current fiscal crisis and a lack of sufficient capital resources, the Illiana Expressway will not move forward at this time,” and IDOT statement read. “IDOT will begin the process of suspending all existing project contracts and procurements.”
Under the stewardship of former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, original plans called for private developers to finance, construct, operate and maintain Illiana, then recoup their investment by tolls it accrued through 2052.
However, the project's proposed location, about 58 miles south of Chicago, prompted concern Illiana wouldn't generate the traffic and revenues required to support the arrangement. By the time Illinois shortlisted prospective investors, Illiana was no longer a concessions-P3, but an AP-P3, meaning if toll revenues fell short of availability payments to developers, the state would make up a difference of perhaps $1 billion or more.
Support for Illiana has since has waned, though Rauner's use of the phrase “at this time” when he suspended it suggests he may revisit the project in the future.