Feds recommend Illiana toll road construction

9/26/2014, 1:23 p.m.
The Federal Highway Administration did an environmental impact review of the 50-mile roadway linking I-80 in Will County and I-65 ...

The Federal Highway Administration endorsed the construction of the Illiana Corridor Friday as part of its environmental impact study of the proposed road that would link Interstate 80 in Illinois with Interstate 65 in Indiana.

The toll road has the support of officials in Will County government and the Will County Center for Economic Development as a means of easing traffic congestion and providing easier access to and from the CenterPoint Intermodal facility in Joliet and Elwood.

If built, the road would start near Route 53 in Wilmington and end near Lowell, Ind.

Below is the Illinois Department of Transportation's response to the report:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) today published the Illiana Corridor Tier Two Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which recommends a new 50-mile toll road that will connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill., with Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind. The report's recommendation comes after nearly four years of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) working comprehensively with all impacted parties throughout the region.

With today's release of the Final EIS, the FHWA will consider any additional comments received during a 30-day public comment period and issue a Record of Decision, which summarizes the final project decision, later this year.

"The Illiana will create jobs and drive new economic growth throughout the Southland," Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said. "This report is a critical step forward as we continue to drive forward with the Illiana and building a 21st century transportation system that serves every part of Illinois."

The Final EIS describes the process through which the project was developed, including the identification of transportation needs, consideration of dozens of alternatives, and a comprehensive analysis of the potential effects on environmental resources, such as wetlands, wildlife, cultural resources, air quality, and noise. The potential effects on future traffic operations caused by all of the proposed alternatives, including a "no-build" alternative, are outlined as well.

"Given the strength and economic importance of Indiana's global manufacturing and distribution industry, we depend on efficient transportation to stay competitive," said Indiana Governor Mike Pence. "Building the Illiana we will loosen the regional congestion and allow commerce to flow more freely."

The development of the Tier Two Final EIS included an extraordinary amount of stakeholder outreach and coordination, including five public meetings, two public hearings and over 300 small group meetings with a variety of project stakeholders.

"This is yet another significant milestone for the Illiana and validates the inclusive planning process and extensive outreach efforts that have been top priorities of this project since Day 1," Illinois Acting Transportation Secretary Erica Borggren said. "While we still have a few more steps to go, today's recommendation from the federal government shows once again that the Illiana fulfills a major transportation need in this region and throughout the Midwest."

Illinois and Indiana have long served as the hub of American transportation and commerce. The Illiana will be an invaluable regional asset for the Midwest, supporting the efficient distribution of goods and services across the nation, as well as promoting job growth and economic development.

The project will improve regional mobility, and create thousands of short-term and long-term jobs, amounting to over a billion dollars in wages over a 30-year period. It will serve as a major trucking corridor and boost the region's long-term economic output by nearly $4 billion.

INDOT Commissioner Karl Browning said, "The Illiana project has been a true collaborative effort between Illinois and Indiana. We will continue to work together to ensure the project will be a success."

The Final EIS can be downloaded at www.IllianaCorridor.org, and is available for viewing at public facilities within the study area. For a complete listing of viewing locations, or to order a DVD, please visit the project website.