Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Federal Judge Rules Illiana Tollway's Approval Invalid


The Environmental Law and Policy Center issued the following release today after a ruling by Federal Judge Jorge Alonso:
"Chicago—The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois issued a strong decision declaring the federal and state transportation agencies’ approvals of the proposed Illiana Tollway to be illegal.

“The Federal Court decision is a big victory for the Environmental Law & Policy Center and our clients and for sensible transportation planning and priorities,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We are very pleased the Federal District Court has ruled in our favor, which should bring the boondoggle proposed Illiana Tollway to an end.”

The Federal District Court held that the Federal Highway Administration’s and Illinois Department of Transportation’s approvals of the final Tier One Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) were “arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA” (National Environmental Policy Act). 

Judge Jorge Alonso determined that IDOT’s plans to build the Illiana Tollway was based on analyses that are “fatally flawed.” He said the agencies used a circular logic to make their initial case about how the proposed Illiana Tollway will lead to population growth and traffic demand. They assumed traffic growth would be the same regardless of whether the costly proposed new Illiana Tollway was ever built. The Court remanded the EIS and ROD to be redone in accordance with the decision and applicable law. 

Today’s Federal Court decision forces the Illinois and Indiana Departments of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to go back to the drawing board.

“IDOT, INDOT and FHWA need to go back to square one, or not at all,” said Learner. “It’s time for Gov. Rauner and the federal and state transportation agencies to bring the proposed Illiana Tollway to an end. We need to close this sad chapter in Illinois transportation politics and misplaced priorities. The Illiana Tollway is a fiscal boondoggle, contrary to sound regional transportation policy, and would degrade the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.”"

Read the judge's summary opinion here.