Illinois Gov. Rauner's executive order puts planned Illiana Expressway on hold, under review

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — A planned 47-mile expressway between Illinois and Indiana is on hold after new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order aimed at addressing the state's deep budget problems.

In his first act after taking office Monday, the Republican suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a "careful review" of costs and benefits. Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Tuesday the planned Illiana Expressway is among the projects that fall under the executive order, adding that it's part of "a broader review to maximize taxpayer investment in infrastructure."

It was unclear Tuesday how long that review may take.

The $1.5 billion project would provide an east-west link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.

Supporters, including Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, say the expressway would relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs.

"We're ready to build the Illiana whenever Illinois is," Christy Denault, communications director for Pence, said Tuesday.

Opponents have called the project unnecessary and say it could become a boondoggle, leaving taxpayers on the hook if toll revenue falls short. Among those who have been critical is Randy Blankenhorn, Rauner's pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Blankenhorn, who currently leads the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday. But he's said publicly he wasn't sure Illiana was a good deal for Illinois and could expose taxpayers to undue risk.

Environmentalists also oppose the project, saying it will spoil rural areas in Illinois' Will County.

Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, supported the expressway. Last month, the Federal Highway Administration approved plans for the project, giving officials the green light to begin looking for public-private partnerships to construct, maintain and operate it.

Opponents have vowed to continue a fight against it, and a lawsuit is pending.


Associated Press reporter Lauryn Schroeder contributed from in Indianapolis.

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