Yesterday, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), under the leadership of Governor Mike Pence, joined newly elected Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) in putting his state’s commitment to the Illiana Expressway project on hold.
The Illiana would run through cornfields and cost as much as $3 billion to build, putting taxpayers at risk of bailing out an unnecessary road while crowding out other transportation priorities.
A year ago, the highway was a top priority for former Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and seemed inevitable. Rauner’s election has reversed the momentum, but the question remains: What needs to happen to kill the Illiana boondoggle? It’s clear what’s necessary for a proposed highway to be completely approved and funded, but how does a proposed project finally die?
There are many good reasons people aren’t embracing the Illiana. The private financing that taxpayers had been led to believe would cover the cost of the project was a mirage. IDOT sweetened the deal for its private partners, promising road builders a set amount of scheduled payments no matter the level of toll revenue. In other words, the public was on the hook for any shortfall.