Illiana, Peotone: questions, criticism continue

Steve Schlickman, executive director of the Urban Transportation Center in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, is quoted in a Better Government Association article on Bruce Rauner’s authority to stop the Illiana highway and Peotone airport projects regardless of public pressure.

Rauner, a Republican who takes office in January, is vague about his position. He considers the Illiana an important economic development catalyst for Will County but questions the cost to taxpayers, a spokesman said. As for Peotone, any new airport “must have enough demand to be self-sustaining and not reduce economic activity at other airports in the region,” a Rauner statement said. So far, there isn’t demand from airlines or cargo carriers for Peotone and the impact on O’Hare and Midway airports remains a criticism.

“He has the authority to shelve (Illiana) — he doesn’t have to ask anyone,” said Stephen Schlickman, executive director of the Urban Transportation Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As for Peotone, Rauner “can say ‘we’ve done our best but we’re not getting any interest yet.'”

There will be political pressure for killing or moving forward on either project, Schlickman said. But the Illiana project is moving so rapidly that Rauner will need to make a relatively quick decision on whether to proceed, he said. Considering the state’s backlog of needed infrastructure projects, scarce government dollars and lack of demand for an airport, neither project makes sense in the near term, he adds.

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