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Local News

Illiana Expressway on hold

Rauner wants to review all new highway projects

Virginia Gates-Hamann walks around her farm as she shows where she may loose land if the proposed Illiana Expressway is built. The controversial proposed highway has been put on hold by Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Virginia Gates-Hamann walks around her farm as she shows where she may loose land if the proposed Illiana Expressway is built. The controversial proposed highway has been put on hold by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The controversial Illiana Expressway project is among transportation projects being put on hold by Gov. Bruce Rauner, according to a spokesman for the governor.

Key local supporters of the controversial Illiana Expressway said Tuesday they did not want to give the announcement too much weight, adding that Rauner seems to be taking a step back and reviewing all major projects – not just the Illiana.

“I don’t want to read too far into this,” Nick Palmer, chief of staff for County Executive Larry Walsh, said Tuesday. “It’s his second day on the job.”

In Rauner’s first act after taking office Monday, the Republican governor issued an executive order aimed at cutting spending. The move suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a “careful review” of costs and benefits.

Rauner spokesman Lance Trover confirmed Tuesday that includes the Illiana Expressway, a planned 47-mile east-west link between Interstate 65 in Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.

The news came as no surprise to John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development. He looked on the bright side.

“I guess the good news is that it’s on hold. It’s not over,” Greuling said.

Peotone farmer Virginia Hamann, an outspoken critic of the project with land in the proposed pathway, said she’s being “cautiously optimistic.”

An active member of the anti-Illiana “No Illiana 4 Us” group, Hamann said the group will continue fighting against the project.

“Until he pulls the plug, we have to keep fighting,” Hamann said.

Supporters say the tollway, which would link Interstate 55 in Wilmington with Interstate 65 in Indiana, would relieve traffic congestion on Interstate 80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs. But critics – including Rauner’s pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation – have said it’s financially risky.

On Sunday, Rauner announced Randy Blankenhorn as his pick to head the state agency. For the past eight years, Blankenhorn has served as executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning – a key regional planning agency that opposed the Illiana project.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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