IDOT is defending the Illiana Expressway. This is a proposed 47-mile toll road joining I-55 in Wilmington to I-65 in Indiana. The project has been criticized by planners as not needed, not an economic development producer, and not something that will pay for itself, let alone turn a profit. IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider is sticking by her financial projections.
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“Both states have hired independent financial advisors on this that don’t necessarily coordinate, so I think we feel very confident that our numbers are going to play out as this project goes forward,” she said. The cost is estimated at $1.3 billion, with $1 billion of that on the Illinois side. The expectation is that a private investor would be involved for 35 years, collecting toll revenue from users. Schneider says the road is needed not just as a shortcut to skirt the Chicago area, or to keep trucks off I-80 through the Chicago suburbs and the Joliet area, but to allow for the development of freight and warehouse facilities in the area. A planning agency, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, will decide Thursday whether to include the road in IDOT’s long-term plans.