Rauner approves money for Illiana; project still on hold

Gov. Bruce Rauner has approved $5.5 million for Illiana Expressway, although it is seen as money being spent to take care of old bills and not to revive the stymied project.

Rauner in early June removed the Illiana from the Department of Transportation's multi-year plan that lays out spending for future highway projects. On June 30, he signed a bill that spends $5.5 million on the Illiana, which was conceived as an east-west tollway running roughly from Interstate 55 in Wilmington to Interstate 65 in Indiana.

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly in an email statement said the money “is to handle administrative costs associated with putting the project on hold indefinitely.”

She said the Illiana Expressway remains on hold.

A leading Will County advocate of the project said he did not see any signs of a turnaround in the governor’s view of the Illiana.

“My information that I have is that it’s money for engineering work that was contracted and still has to be paid for,” said John Greuling, chief executive officer for the Will County Center for Economic Development.

“I don’t think it’s for any new engineering and land acquisition,” he said. “I don’t see that as a philosophical change in the project.”

Greuling and other Will County advocates for the Illiana Expressway contend the additional route would relieve truck congestion on local highways by providing an alternative route to Interstate 80. Opponents contend that trucks would not use the tollway in sufficient numbers to pay the bill for construction.