Environmental Groups Sue to Halt Illiana
April 18, 2014—The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), representing the Sierra Club and Openlands, filed a lawsuit this week alleging that the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) does not have the proper legal authority to continue developing the Illiana Corridor, a proposed 47-mile tollroad in southern Cook County, Illinois and Lake County, Indiana.
The lawsuit contends that the project was not fully authorized by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). In October 2013, the CMAP Board voted 10-4 against including the plan in the GO TO 2040 Plan as a financially constrained project, but the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Committee voted a week later to approve the Illiana project for inclusion in the plan. IDOT has since moved ahead with the project based on that vote. However, ELPC contends that the CMAP Board’s approval was also required by state law, making the second vote invalid.
In a prepared statement, Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center and one of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys, said, “The Illinois Department of Transportation is violating Illinois law by spending public funds on the proposed Illiana Tollway, which the Chicago Metropolitan Area for Planning voted to reject for the regional transportation plan. Illinois state law requires CMAP’s approval, which IDOT cannot legally circumvent. The Plaintiffs are requesting that the state court declare the agencies’ actions to be unlawful and enjoin IDOT from spending any public funds on the proposed Illiana Tollway.”
The statement goes on to say that the CMAP Board voted against the roadway based on its own staff report that the “Illiana Tollway wasn’t needed and would expose the region to financial risk and environmental devastation without any appreciable transportation benefits.”
ELPC also represents Openlands and Sierra Club in separate pending lawsuit in federal court, filed in July 2013, which alleges that the “Tier 1” environmental impact study for the Illiana Tollway was legally inadequate.