Friday, July 10, 2015

Illiana lingers in limbo?

Who’s to say anymore what the fate of the proposed Illiana Tollway is.

RAUNER: What's his Illiana point?!?
Gov. Bruce Rauner gave the project a kiss-off long desired by environmental activists and rural residents who resent the idea of the Chicago area growing further and further into areas once considered solidly rural.

BUT THEN, JUST a few weeks after issuing an order saying state spending for the Illiana was done, Rauner gave his approval to a bill that provides – amongst other things – $5.49 million to be used for the Illiana.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Rauner justifies the expense as being needed to cover any legal costs associated with killing off the Illiana. After all, you don’t just suddenly stop a project that has been ongoing for years.

Or else you wind up violating commitments that were previously made, and wind up getting sued by the entities that were counting on the project being built someday.

For all we know, this money will pay for the legal fees to defend Illinois government from those very lawsuits.

YET THE ACTIVISTS who long saw no need for a highway connecting Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind., to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill., are upset. Crain’s reported the Environmental Law & Policy Center literally wants no more spending on Illinois to mean no more spending.

Nada! Nothing!

Now some might wonder why there hasn’t been more of an outcry in recent weeks to Rauner acting to end the Illiana – which is a project that south suburban Cook County has long considered to be a priority to spur economic development.

That, and the long-proposed airport in rural Will County near Peotone. Which Rauner also gave a serious blow to a month ago.

THEN AGAIN, THE south suburbs of Chicago were a part of the state that gave its overwhelming support in last year’s election cycle to Gov. Pat Quinn. It also is a part of the state that will more than eagerly be willing to believe that it’s Rauner’s fault the state lingers in a financial mess due to the inability of officials to put a budget together for the current fiscal year.

So is it believable that Rauner wouldn’t care much what the south suburbs think about this particular issue – or any other? Of course.

The routes that may be resurrected as a political power play
But the rumor mill also has speculation that this is a power play – keeping the Illiana alive in some form so that it can be resurrected in full. IF local officials learn to play ball.

Could it wind up being that those African-American legislators from the south suburbs (the dominant group amongst the local population for the past two decades) defect from the Madigan bloc on this issue?

COULD THEY WIND up supporting at least some of the ideological measures Rauner is touting to benefit his business buddies – in return for the Illiana project coming back to life?

Anything is possible. I have no doubt that those officials, who always talk about Illiana and a new airport in terms of job creation rather than any transportation benefits they would provide to the Chicago metro area, could be easily swayed.

Because what Rauner needs is to create fractures within the Democratic caucuses of the Illinois House and state Senate, which otherwise have such large Democratic-leaning composition that Dems will override any effort by Rauner to use his veto power. I’m sure for the long run, he’s focusing on getting more Republican members come the 2016 election cycle so he won’t have to make any political concessions.

But for now, Rauner wants political relevance – which only the Chicago Tribune seems to want to think he has. In which case, Illiana still serves a purpose.


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