Thursday, January 15, 2015

Illiana demise ought not be a surprise. Will Will County airport be next?

I fully expect that anything former Gov. Pat Quinn publicly supported, current Gov. Bruce Rauner is going to oppose. They’re like a pair of temperamental 8-year-olds.

So I wasn’t shocked to learn that Rauner’s first actions included putting a halt to any planning for interstate construction. That includes the proposed Illiana Expressway that Quinn always touted any time he was on the South Side or surrounding suburbs.

BECAUSE THERE, LOCAL officials perceive construction of an interstate highway stretching from Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind., to Interstate 55 near Wilmington (which is just south of Joliet) as being a source of jobs and a way to spur future economic development south of the city.

Bringing up Illiana, along with construction of a new airport in the farm fields of rural Will County north of Peotone, was always a way for Quinn to get cheers and applause – along with votes.

If all of Illinois had voted like the South Side and south suburbs, Quinn would have kicked Rauner’s behind back on Election Day last year.

But they didn’t, and Quinn didn’t. We have “Gov. Rauner” now, and he said during the campaign he doesn’t think much of the Illiana project (and the third airport, either).

SO NOW, ILLINOIS is doing a financial review. Rauner aides say it’s about fiscal responsibility and making sure money is not being wasted during construction.

Although I suspect it’s also about not expending too much state effort on parts of the state that weren’t all that supportive of the Rauner campaign during the election cycle. Seriously, some of those suburbs in Thornton and Bloom townships gave up to 90 percent of their voter support to Quinn.

So this is a political move all too similar to the way past politicos have operated. Not exactly conduct becoming of someone who claims to be the “nobody” that “nobody sent.”

Although since Rauner was clear during the campaign cycle that he didn’t support Illiana, I don’t think we have much of a right to be shocked and appalled that he would make its demise one of his first actions.

EVEN THOUGH THAT demise now leaves unanswered a very serious question – what will be done to alleviate the congested mess that occurs all too frequently on Interstate 80 just south of Chicago proper?

That road is heavily used by truckers shipping goods from other parts of the country into Chicago. Anyone who has ever driven on the interstate near the Illinois/Indiana border knows how nerve-wracking it can be to get caught up in a truck-laced traffic jam.

One of the purposes of the Illiana proposal is to give those freight trucks that are merely passing through metro Chicago (and not specifically stopping here) an alternate route to alleviate the Interstate 80 traffic.

Now that Rauner is moving in ways to obliterate the Illiana (although Indiana state officials say they’re prepared to build their portion of the road regardless of Illinois’ problems with the project), it will be interesting to see how the new governor addresses the traffic congestion problem.

BECAUSE THE ISSUE is not going away. It is a serious one. It is not something Rauner can ignore. If he does, he will be messing with the transportation of goods into and out of the Chicago area, which impacts the state’s economic bottom line!

 I’d like to think Rauner knows better. Although the idea of a politician causing problems inadvertently because of their desire to oppose something or someone (Quinn??!?) else is nothing new in Illinois.

It is likely the third airport concept could meet a similar fate, although that is a Federal Aviation Administration project and the federal government has final say over whether it proceeds.

But federal officials have said before they want local support for the airport project, which means Rauner apathy could cause them to lose good will – and the southern part of metro Chicago could wind up losing its two major projects meant to bolster the local economy.


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