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Anti-Illiana groups circulating petitions to present to Gov.-elect Rauner

Published: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 10:42 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Jan. 9, 2015 11:36 a.m. CDT

Leading up to Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner’s inauguration Monday, opponents of the ­Illiana Expressway are busy getting petition signatures in hopes of persuading Rauner to put a stop to the $1.5 billion tollway project.

Environmental groups – including the Sierra Club, Openlands and the Environmental Law & Policy Center – began promoting the petitions on social media, via email, and in newsletters last month, said Erica Dodt, with the Sierra Club’s Illinois Chapter.

In all, the groups have collected more than 1,200 signatures so far and hope to have more by the self-imposed Jan. 20 deadline. Members of the No Illiana 4 Us group are also circulating a printed-out version of the Sierra Club’s petition, she said.

“We want to show him there’s a lack of support for this,” Dodt said, speaking of Rauner. “The petitions lay out that there’s been resounding opposition, from newspapers and editorial boards to taxpayers. We’re trying to drive home the point that this will burden the taxpayers.”

Critics have called it a “boondoggle” that could leave taxpayers with the short end of the stick if toll revenue projections fall short. But supporters argue the planned tollway, which would connect Interstate 55 in Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana, would relieve congestion on local roads and promote economic growth.

The Sierra Club’s petition states that the project “will be a major economic burden to taxpayers, is inconsistent with the region’s plan, will negatively impact the agricultural economy [of the region] and will destroy globally rare native habitats and public land.”

Rauner won in the November election against outgoing Gov. Pat Quinn – a major supporter of the Illiana. Opponents hope Rauner will be the one to hang up the towel, said Anthony Rayson, a leader of No Illiana 4 Us.

“I think we’re all anxious to find out what he’s going to do,” Rayson said.

Since winning the November election, Rauner has been tight-lipped on whether he would support or object to the Illiana project moving forward.

A Rauner spokeswoman told The Herald-News in November that the governor-elect believes the project “may have the potential to be an economic development engine,” but that the state needs to make sure any potential public-private partnership deal doesn’t leave taxpayers “holding the bag.”

The petition can be accessed at http://noilliana.org/take-action.

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