Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is Senior Editor for Politics & Policy for WNYC News. She has previously served as Metro Editor, Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
An Illinois board last night approved a new 47-mile toll highway, the Illiana Expressway. The move is notable for the dissension it caused and because new highways are out-of-vogue with planners, who tend to see them as costly, environmentally destructive, and promoting inefficient, sprawling development.
WBEZ described the vote:
The vote came after nearly three hours of debate among board members, elected officials and the public. Opponents cited the high costs of the project, destruction of farmland and potential harm to natural areas. But supporters like U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly said it was about investing in a region that deserves funding as much as Chicago does.
Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who frequently agrees with modern urban planners, opposed the project. His fellow democrat, Governor Pat Quinn, was a backer. From the Sun-Times.
Transportation analysts have clashed over the need for the Illiana Expressway. The board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which is heavily influenced by Cook County and Chicago interests, voted against it last week. It contended that the tollway would cost more than the projected $1.3 billion; its benefits for economic development and traffic relief would be negligible, and that toll income would be unlikely to cover its operating and maintenance costs.