It’s a petition frenzy out there.
At the moment, two major drives are being organized to petition the state government in Illinois to act responsibly in its role as a state-wide transportation planner.
The longer running of the two efforts is protesting the Illiana Tollroad. The planned project would connect I-55 near Wilmington, IL with I-65 near Lowell, IN. The proposed public-private partnership would be maintained and operated post-completion by a private authority collecting toll revenue to pay back the costs of construction. The deal however requires the states of Illinois and Indiana to cover the difference is toll revenue if enough isn’t made. Ridership projections are low and in all likelihood will make little difference in congestion in Southland–the southern suburbs of Chicago. The project has been named one of the county’s biggest highway boondoggles by the US Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) (Highway Boondoggles USPIRG).
Opposition to the project comes from a variety of perspectives, which are coalescing into a loose coalition of advocates pushing for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) to take the last stand and kill the project for good. The potential for this has grown since his inauguration: he put the project on hold (which has since happened in Indiana too) and he appointed a known opponent of the Illiana as acting head of IDOT. Almost 13,000 signatures were delivered to Rauner’s offices in Chicago this past week.
The petitions against the Illiana, all of which took part in the recent petition drop, include:
- The PETITION from this blog.
- The No Illiana 4 Us petition spearheaded by Will Co. resident Virginia Hamann and a major player in building support to stop the Illiana (No Illiana 4 Us is also on Facebook).
- The Active Transportation Alliance‘s petition.
- The Environmental Law & Policy Center‘s petition (program website).
- The Sierra Club Illinois chapter, Illinois PIRG, and Openlands are also playing a role to in the effort to stop the Illiana, but have closes their petitions.
The other major petition drive happening is the Active Transportation Alliance PETITION seeking to convince Illinois leaders to prevent major funding cuts for the Chicagoland RTA and other urban transportation agencies. Although Rauner contends the cuts, upwards of $130 million for the RTA ($105 million for the CTA alone), account for a small percentage of the transit systems’ operating budgets many fear the cuts could reverse progress the RTA agencies are making to improve service.
Organizers seeking to maintain the funding recognize the state is in dire fiscal straights right now, but argue there are reasonable alternatives to cuts across the board. This includes an increase in the state gas tax.
The budget proposed by Rauner isn’t final however and must still pass the Democrat controlled legislature.