Illiana Expressway

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The Official Illiana Corridor Logo

Illiana Corridor
Route information
Length 50 mi (80 km)
History Under study
Major junctions
West end I-55
State Line
East end I-65

The Illiana Expressway, also known as the Illiana Corridor, was a controversial proposed toll road in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana. Formal environmental impact statement studies were begun in April 2011 and were led jointly by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). It was planned as being approximately 50 miles (80 km) in length, mostly in Illinois, connecting Interstate 55 (I-55) in Illinois to I-65 in Indiana.

Route description[edit]

Tier Two Alternatives for the Illiana Expressway

The proposed route of the Illiana Expressway extends from Interstate 55 in Illinois to Interstate 65 in Indiana, passing just south of the Joliet Army Ammunition Plant.



The vision of the Illiana Corridor dates back to the 1909 Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett that included an “Outer Encircling Highway” serving northeastern Illinois and northwest Indiana. Conceptual highway corridors linking Illinois and Indiana south of Interstate 80 were also studied by regional planning agencies in both states in the 1960s and 1970s. More recently, feasibility studies for a potential Illiana expressway were completed in 2009 by Indiana and a supplemental study in 2010 by Illinois. These showed that transportation improvements could be possible, and set the stage for formal studies.

Following completion of these studies, a memorandum of understanding was signed on June 9, 2010 by the Governors of Illinois and Indiana, which formalized the partnership between the two states for planning a potential new transportation linkage. Recently enacted legislation in both states also allows a “public private partnership” or “P3”, which allows private sector financing for constructing or operating a transportation facility.[1]


The Illiana Expressway would become the third east–west expressway to connect northeastern Illinois and northwest Indiana. In 1953, the Kingery-Borman expressway combination opened. Subsequently a part of Interstate 80, this route would become part of one of the most important coast-to-coast Interstate highways in the United States. The Chicago Skyway opened five years later, on April 16, 1958.[2] With the newly opened Indiana Toll Road, the Skyway and Toll Road became part of a second coast-to-coast Interstate highway, as Interstate 90 ran through the city of Chicago proper.

The Skyway-Indiana Toll Road combination paralleled the shoreline of Lake Michigan, and was a popular road until the Dan Ryan Expressway opened in 1962, with Interstate 80/94 providing a free route from Chicago to northwestern Indiana. Ideas for an east-west limited access highway further south, connecting southern Lake County Indiana with Will County Illinois, have been studied by transportation planners in efforts prior to the current Illiana Corridor Study, notably by the following: South Suburban Freeway Study (Murphy Engineering, 1972); I-80/I-94 Congestion Relief Study (Wilbur Smith, 1992); Northwest Indiana Corridor Study (Burgess & Niple, 2000); and the South Suburban Airport (Tier One/Tier Two) (AECOM, 2002/In Progress).

In June 2010 governors Pat Quinn of Illinois and Mitch Daniels of Indiana formally initiated development of an Illiana Expressway under the heading of the "Illiana Corridor". The two states' transportation departments were charged with examining potential routes and proposing one through the formal federal interstate-highway planning process. In late 2012 the bi-state planning group released a draft Tier 1 environmental impact statement which was made final in January 2013.[3] The Tier 2 process is now[when?] underway focused on the specific route which the planners have selected and are advocating.[4] That route runs from Wilmington, Illinois to a point on I-65 east of Lowell, Indiana. The Illiana was first proposed a public-private partnership in which private investors would provide the capital funding for the road's construction in exchange for toll revenues, although those terms have more recently been changed to include significant upfront investment of public funds.

Because both northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana have state- and federally-recognized regional planning agencies which have published formal regional plans, under federal law the Illiana Expressway must be reflected in those plans.[5] The Illiana was listed as a fiscally unconstrained project in the "GOTO2040" plan published by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP),[6] and as an "illustrative" project in the 2040 Plan published by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC).[7] The Illiana Corridor planners requested both planning agencies to amend those plans to include the expressway as a regional priority project. A committee of CMAP approved the inclusion of the Illiana in its GOTO2040 plan in a meeting on October 17, 2013, and the NIRPC board approved the project's inclusion on December 12, 2013.

In 2014 IDOT hired Fitch Ratings to rate the project's financial viability; Fitch determined the Illiana "would not receive a favorable rating."[8]

Official actions and status[edit]

On October 4, 2013, CMAP's Transportation Committee voted 10-7, with 5 abstentions and 6 absences, to recommend to CMAP's board that the Illiana Expressway be included in the GOTO 2040 plan.[9] The controversy continued to attract more media attention in the Chicago region.[10]

On October 8 sources told the Tribune that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had decided to oppose the expressway project, which was expected to mean that the city's representatives on the CMAP board would vote against including it in the regional plan.[11] On October 9 the CMAP vote did play out that way, resulting in the board voting 10-4 against the project's inclusion in the regional plan. That vote generated a fresh round of media and interest-group attention.[12][13][14]

On October 17 CMAP's MPO Policy Committee, which under federal law held the final say on inclusion in the regional plan, met to act on the proposed project. The standing-room only public meeting attracted all major Chicago-area media outlets and all 19 members of the committee attended; more than three dozen citizens and local elected officials made public comments both pro and con.[15][16] In the end the committee, chaired by IDOT Secretary Ann Schneider, who is an appointee of Governor Quinn, voted 11-8 for inclusion of the Illiana Expressway in the regional plan.[17]

Two of northeastern Illinois' transit agencies, PACE and Metra, received criticism for their representatives' Illiana votes on the MPO Policy Committee.[18]

In early December the Indiana Department of Transportation published its financing plan for the Indiana portion of the project, which was widely reported in NW Indiana newspapers.[19][20]

On December 3 the Transportation Committee of NIRPC voted 18-8 to recommend the project to the planning agency's board.[21][22] Two days later the agency's Environment Committee met but declined to vote on the issue.[23]

In the days leading up to NIRPC's December 12 vote on the project a conversation began regarding the vote count: whether proportional voting would be based on population figures from the 2000 or 2010 federal census.[24]

On December 12, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) approved the Illiana Corridor Project for its 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.

The project continued to be a point of controversy in October 2014, as CMAP's long-range transportation plan was again up for approval.[25]

On December 11, 2014, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved the project, which allows it to move from the planning phase to implementation phase.[26]

After Bruce Rauner became governor of Illinois in 2015, he suspended development of the Illiana pending a cost-benefit review.[27] Rauner's administration ultimately decided the project would be removed from IDOT's plans because "project costs exceed currently available resources."[28]



In July 2013 two environmental groups and one local organization filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration,[29] alleging that the federal agencies had violated federal law by signing off on an environmental impact study that failed to establish the need for the Illiana Expressway and that did not properly evaluate alternatives for the proposed route.[30]

On July 30, 2013 The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's (CMAP) internal staff analysis of the proposed highway became public.[31] That analysis was highly critical and generated attention in the Chicago media.[32]

On August 27, 2013 Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle wrote to Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn opposing the project.[33] Preckwinkle voiced opposition again on July 30, 2014, arguing that IDOT's funding model "makes government the payer of first resort."[34]

On September 4, 2013 a Chicago-based non-profit organization called the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) released its own analysis of the proposed highway.[35] The group declared that, "A robust analysis by MPC ultimately has determined that the Illiana Expressway would yield few benefits in exchange for high—and uncertain—costs. MPC opposes the Illiana Expressway’s inclusion in GO TO 2040."

During this time, CMAP was collecting public comment on the inclusion of the Illiana in the regional plan, ("Of the 965 comments, 169 were supportive of the proposed amendment and 796 comments expressed opposition to it.")[36] On September 4 the agency's Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-2 (with 5 abstentions) against recommending to the full board that the Illiana be included in the GOTO 2040 Plan.

On September 6 one Chicago newspaper columnist called the Illiana "Quinn's road to nowhere."[37]

Local grassroots groups on both sides of the state border have expressed their opposition to the proposed expressway both at their own public meetings and while attending public hearings of the various public bodies involved.[38]

On September 25, 2013 the Chicago Tribune, the largest-circulation newspaper in the Midwest, published an editorial that was highly critical of the proposed tollway.[39] Headlined "Put the brakes on the Illiana Expressway", the editorial concluded "Tell us again—why is this a good idea? CMAP's role here is to set priorities. The Illiana Expressway doesn't make the cut."

On September 27 CMAP staff issued their formal recommendation regarding the request for the Illiana Expressway to be added to the regional plan.[40] The agency staff told their board's Transportation Committee that the proposed tollway "is broadly incompatible with the overall goals and recommendations of GO TO 2040. Staff recommends that it not be added to the plan at this time." They concluded that "The proposed facility’s estimated cost and potential financing structure expose the State of Illinois to extensive financial risk"; that "IDOT has used growth projections that are not consistent with GO TO 2040 forecasts"; that "The proposed facility’s ability to spur or support economic growth remains unclear"; and that the highway would provide only "negligible" improvements to road congestion. That CMAP staff recommendation inspired a fresh round of criticism in the Chicago news media,[41][42][43] including a second editorial published by the Tribune and then a third.[44][45]

In late October a bond downgrade related to a similar project in Texas was reported in Chicago.[46]

In early November in Lake County Indiana a member of the state's legislature and a member of the county board, both Republicans, publicly opposed the project.[47] On November 12 the Lowell (IN) Town Council voted to remove Councilman Donald Parker, D-3rd, from his seat on the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission so as to ensure that the town's vote on the regional council was in opposition to the highway project.[48] Lowell Council President Edgar Corns, R-5th, was appointed in Parker's place. That action followed a packed and contentious public meeting on the subject held in Lowell on November 5.[49] Later Corns was replaced as the town's representative by Craig Earley, who on December 8 published an op-ed article explaining his views of the issue.[50]

On November 12 Tollroads News argued that private investors would not be asked to risk their capital on the Illiana Expressway project:[51]

"The Industry Forum in Indiana made clear, as did the Illinois DOT request for information (RFI), that there was no taste for a toll concession in which the investors carry the traffic and revenue risk (and reward.) So both states are going for AP-P3s in which payments for furnishing and operating the tollroad are guaranteed by contract regardless of traffic and revenue....the biggest longterm risk—of inadequate traffic and revenue to pay the availability payments—is assumed by future taxpayers of the state....Debt is incurred by the P3 group and the availability payments are secured to the “full faith and credit” of the state. So a kind of new entitlement program is established for future legislators to support on an annual basis. The Indiana RFQ cites the state’s AAA credit rating and business friendly environment as a positive in favor of participation."

On November 19 the journal further clarified that "The great bulk of the risk—residing in the traffic and revenue forecasts—is assumed by the state and its taxpayers just as surely as if it was a state tollroad operation.[52] AP-P3s then don’t look for real 'investors.' They look for contractors, big contractors with a big contract, but a contract all the same."

On November 14 Marc Chase, a columnist with the Times of Northwest Indiana, devoted his column to opposing the highway project, a position contrary to the newspaper's strong editorial support of the Illiana Expressway.[53] On December 8 Indiana GOP state representative Rick Niemeyer published an op-ed article explaining his opposition to the project.[54]

On December 11 Hammond Indiana Mayor Thomas McDermott declared his opposition while U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (D-IN) repeated his support.[24] That day's Chicago Tribune included an editorial asking NIRPC to vote against the project.[55]

On December 11 the Lake County (Indiana) Council passed a resolution opposing the project.[56]

In April 2014, the Environmental Law and Policy Center filed a lawsuit alleging that CMAP violated its founding legislation in the process of approving the Illiana. This legislation requires that plans "shall be approved by the CMAP board prior to final approval," but the Illiana was given final approval after being rejected by the board.[57]

In October 2014, the Illinois Public Interest Research Group issued a report that criticized the project as unnecessary based on transportation trends and irresponsible financially.[58]


Will County officials have continued to push for the road.[59] "By providing new capacity and connectivity with the interstate system at I-55, I-57 and I-65, the Illiana will improve regional mobility and the efficient movement of freight," Will County Executive Lawrence Walsh said in a letter supporting the project. "Congestion and delay on I-80, as well as on I-55 threaten productivity, safety and quality of life in the region."

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Indiana Governor Michael Pence, speaking on September 28 at a meeting in Chicago, reiterated their support for the project.[60] “Whether it’s the Illiana or any mode of transportation, you have to go where the demand is,” Quinn said. Pence added, “You have to think regionally, because roads don’t stop at state borders.” Tollroads News, a trade journal covering the construction of new toll highways, also wrote about the CMAP staff recommendation.[61]

On September 5, an editorial was submitted to the Northwest Indiana Times, stating, "The Illiana Expressway is needed. It has been more than half a century since a new expressway has been built in Northwest Indiana. Traffic has grown exponentially since then, and it will continue to grow. A new expressway is needed, and the Illiana fits the bill -- with private dollars footing the bill for its construction. Pave the way for this private investment in the region's transportation infrastructure."[62]

On October 14, Governor Quinn underlined support for Illiana Expressway, "Gov. Pat Quinn declared himself an ally of Chicago's south suburbs Monday, offering municipalities road repair funds while also reiterating his support for the Illiana Expressway project.[63]

On October 16, Congresswoman Robin Kelly reaffirmed her support for the Illiana Expressway by signing a joint letter with Congressman Adam Kinzinger, and Congressman Bill Foster.[64] Kelly states, “The Illiana Expressway project has strong bi-state support, including deep support from political, labor and business leaders from South Cook, Will and Kankakee counties,” Kelly said. “We stand united. It’s not often that a group as diverse as this stands together. It’s important to show our solidarity to everyone before the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) takes its crucial vote on Oct. 17.”

On October 17, an editorial in the Chicago Tribune was submitted by Congresswoman Robin Kelly, in support of the project:

"First, the Illiana is economically viable despite claims to the contrary. Will County is teeming with more than enough residents and businesses to support and justify the construction of the expressway. And the Illiana has the strong support of political, labor and business leaders from south Cook, Will and Kankakee counties due to the potential for tremendous economic growth in the region. I don't have to tell you how rare it is that a group as diverse as this stands united in support of a single project. Second, the Illiana will not—I repeat—will not take money away from other transportation projects. The project will be financed through a public-private partnership that will expedite construction of the expressway while reducing costs."[65]

On October 27 the deputy director of Indiana's Department of Transportation described his agency's support for the project in a newspaper guest column.[66] The column was printed again on December 8.[67]

The Times of Northwest Indiana, which is now the largest daily newspaper in that region of the state, has continued to editorialize in favor of the Illiana project.[68]

On December 7 U.S. Senators Dan Coats (R-IN) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) publicly renewed their support for the project.[69]

On December 10 the Crown Point (Indiana) City Council voted 5-2 to endorse the project.[70]

On December 11 U.S. Representative Pete Visclosky (D-IN) repeated his support for the project while Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott declared his opposition.[24] That day's NW Indiana Times included an editorial urging NIRPC to approve the project.[71]

On December 12, The following statement was issued by Governor Mike Pence:

"I believe roads mean jobs, and today's vote on the Illiana Corridor Project brings us one step closer to more jobs for northwestern Indiana. I am grateful to the members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission for their vote in favor of this important project, which will bring jobs and economic growth to northwestern Indiana and throughout the state."

"The innovative funding for this project will bring new investment dollars into the state transportation system and allow the Indiana Department of Transportation to make further infrastructure investments that will benefit the region for generations to come."[72]

On December 12, Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) praised the vote by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) in favor of the Illiana Expressway.

“This is an important step toward beginning construction of the Illiana Expressway, and I commend NIRPC for moving the development process forward ... This critically important project will stimulate new economic activity and job opportunities in northwest Indiana. Given the fiscal constraints our nation is facing in Washington, the Illiana Expressway is a forward-looking solution that leverages innovative private sector funding sources.”[73]

See also[edit]

  • M-6, the once-controversial southern bypass of Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Maryland Route 200, the once-controversial Intercounty Connector in Maryland


  1. ^ "Illiana Corridor—Partnering for Progress". 
  2. ^ Plummer, Andy (July 2006). "The Calumet Skyway Bridge". Building the Cook County Expressway System. Self-published. Retrieved December 18, 2006. [unreliable source]
  3. ^ "Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement". 
  4. ^ Illiana Corridor—Partnering for Progress: Tier Two - Ongoing
  5. ^ 2 agencies will decide fate of Illiana - Chicago Tribune
  6. ^ ""GOTO2040" plan". 
  7. ^ "2040 Plan". 
  8. ^ Ratings firm's undisclosed report reveals Illiana as financial risk - Daily Southtown
  9. ^ Chicago committee OKs Illiana plan
  10. ^ Why you should care about the battle of the Illiana Expressway -
  11. ^ City representatives on planning board are poised to block Illiana in first of two critical votes - Chicago Tribune
  12. ^ Taxpayers are losers if the Illiana Expressway wins - Chicago Tribune
  13. ^ Transportation planning agency votes against Illiana Expressway plan - Southtown Star
  14. ^ Grassroot group cheers one Illiana vote, braces for another | Eastern Will County News
  15. ^ Illiana Expressway | Streetsblog Chicago
  16. ^ Illiana Expressway Vote A 'Victory' For Some, 'Train Wreck' For Others | Progress Illinois
  17. ^ Planning council committee votes in favor of Illiana Expressway - Chicago Tribune
  18. ^ Metra and Pace votes clear way for $1 billion Illiana Expressway | Active Transportation Alliance
  19. ^ Pdf : Road map to paying for Illiana Expressway
  20. ^ State Could Pay $110 Million For Expressway Linking Indiana To Chicago - / State
  21. ^ NIRPC policy committee OKs Illiana plan - Post-Tribune
  22. ^ NIRPC committee gives thumbs up to Illiana Expressway
  23. ^ NIRPC environmental committee declines stance on Illiana vote : Portage News
  24. ^ a b c Officials taking sides on proposed Illiana Expressway
  25. ^ Greg Hinz (2014-09-30). "New intrigue in political war over Illiana expressway". Crain's Chicago Business. 
  26. ^ "Illiana Expressway Gains Federal Approval". Inside Indiana Business. 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2014-12-12. 
  27. ^ Rauner puts Illiana Expressway on hold Archived January 19, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  28. ^ Rauner Takes a Second, Hopefully Final, Step to Kill the Illiana | Streetsblog Chicago
  29. ^ Environmental groups sue to halt Illiana Expressway - Chicago Tribune
  30. ^ Indiana groups says ‘no way’ to proposed Illiana Tollway | WBEZ 91.5 Chicago
  31. ^ CMAP Proposed Amendment to GO TO 2040 – Illiana Corridor, July 30, 2013.
  32. ^ Hinz, Greg. 2013-08-01. Federal transit watchdog dings Illiana Expressway. Crain's Chicago Business.
  33. ^ Quinn-Illiana 8-27-13
  34. ^ Greg Hinz (2014-08-29). "War breaks out again over Illiana Expressway". Crain's Chicago Business. 
  35. ^ Metropolitan Planning Council opposes proposed Illiana Expressway - Metropolitan Planning Council
  36. ^ CMAP Summary of public comments received on proposed Illiana amendment, September 9, 2013.
  37. ^ Cahill, Joe. 2013-9-06. It's time to cancel Quinn's road to nowhere. Crain's Chicago Business.
  38. ^ Illiana Expressway opposition intensifies
  39. ^ Illiana Expressway plan should be rejected - Chicago Tribune
  40. ^ CMAP Recommendation on Proposed Illiana Corridor, September 27, 2013.
  41. ^ Opinion: Too Many Unanswered Questions About Illiana Expressway | NBC Chicago
  42. ^ Hinz, Greg. 2013-9-27. Illiana could poke $1 billion pothole in state budget, say planners. Crain's Chicago Business.
  43. ^ Illiana toll road would be ‘misplaced investment,’ planners say - Chicago Sun-Times
  44. ^ Chicago regional planning agency's staff recommends 'no' vote on Illiana Expressway - Chicago Tribune
  45. ^ Vote 'no' on Illiana Expressway - Chicago Tribune
  46. ^ Hinz, Greg. 2013-10-24. Texas lessons for the Illiana expressway. Crain's Chicago Business.
  47. ^ Niemeyer and Strong oppose Illiana - Post-Tribune
  48. ^ Lowell ensures 'no' vote cast on Illiana : Lowell News
  49. ^ Illiana tollway opponents turn out for Lowell meeting - Post-Tribune
  50. ^ GUEST COMMENTARY: Illiana toll toad, at what cost and to whom?
  51. ^ News Archive - Toll Roads News
  52. ^ News Archive - Toll Roads News
  53. ^ MARC CHASE: Illiana a Northwest Passage? Not in my backyard
  54. ^ GUEST COMMENTARY: Road would be good for Illinois, not Indiana
  55. ^ Indiana should vote no on Illiana Expressway - Chicago Tribune
  56. ^ Northwest Indiana county council opposes Illiana Expressway » State News » Goshen News, Goshen, IN
  57. ^ "Environmental Groups Charge Illiana Illegally Bypassed CMAP - Streetsblog Chicago". 
  58. ^ "Illinois PIRG report bashes planned Illiana Tollway". 
  59. ^ Opposition continues to mount against Illiana Expressway - Southtown Star
  60. ^ Illiana Expressway to aid Chicago-area traffic | The Journal Gazette Archived November 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  61. ^ Chicago metro planning staff report pans the Illiana Expressway - too remote, little benefit, risky, $1 billion subsidies needed to attract investors - Toll Roads News
  62. ^ Doug Ross. "EDITORIAL: Illiana Expressway must go forward". 
  63. ^ Quinn underlines support for Illiana Expressway
  64. ^ Congresswoman Kelly Reaffirms Unwavering Support for Illiana Expressway
  65. ^ "Perspective: Full steam ahead with the Illiana Expressway". Chicago Tribune. 
  66. ^ EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Illiana would be route to jobs, global trade
  67. ^ GUEST COMMENTARY: Project will improve safety, boost economic development
  68. ^ EDITORIAL: Illiana on fast track, but long overdue
  69. ^ Local News for Will County, Illinois | The Herald-News
  70. ^ Crown Point: Council expresses support for Illiana - Post-Tribune
  71. ^ EDITORIAL: OK Illiana for safety, congestion relief, jobs
  72. ^ Illiana Corridor Project Study Team (December 12, 2013). "Governor Pence Praises 'Yes' Vote on Illiana Corridor Project" (Press release). Illinois Department of Transportation. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  73. ^ "Coats Praises NIRPC Vote in Support of Illiana Expressway" (Press release). Office of United States Senator Dan Coats. December 12, 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 

External links[edit]