Is the billion dollar Illiana Expressway worth funding? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Is the billion dollar Illiana Expressway worth funding?

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A billion dollars or more may be riding on a decision about whether or not to build the proposed Illiana Expressway in the South Suburbs. Supporters claim it will bring thousands of jobs to an often overlooked region, but critics say the money should be spent on other, far more productive projects.

When transportation expert Peter Skosey crunched the numbers, he said he was surprised by how few jobs the proposed Illiana Expressway Toll Road was expected to bring.

"Spending a billion dollars for 940 jobs is not a good investment," Skosey says.

But, wait a minute. Doesn't the Illinois Department of Transportation website's "Close Look at the Illiana Facts" predict 28,000 jobs?

"They talk about it as 28,000 jobs because they multiply the 940 times the 30-year life cycle of the project," Skosey explains.

The Illiana would run 47 miles connecting I-55 near Wilmington to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana. It's proposed as a toll road, backed at least in part by private investors. Supporters argue it would boost freight-handling jobs in Northwest Indiana's Lake County and in 150 regional distribution facilities in Kankakee and Will counties.

"Illinois's freight industry is one of the only industries in Illinois that's currently seeing employment growth," says Ed Maher of the International Union of Operating Engineers. "If you put an expressway through there, you build more intermodal yards. You allow for a freight-centered airport. You can encourage more and more of this growth that CMAP itself says we are do desperately in need of."

The committee that oversees transportation planning is scheduled to vote Thursday afternoon at the Willis Tower on whether to kill the Illiana Expressway or keep it on the drawing board for now.

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