Illinois State Sen. Toi Hutchinson: A Note From “Nowhere-land”

Sen. Toi Hutchinson (right) discusses the Illiana Expressway, South Suburban Airport and other regional issues with Gov Quinn, south suburban mayors, legislators and business leaders at the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon on Oct. 14, 2013.

Op-Ed from Illinois State Sen. Toi W. Hutchinson:

As the sponsor of legislation creating the Illiana Expressway, I am watching with interest recent media reports questioning the need and cost of this roadway.

Let me be clear: the need for the Illiana Expressway has never been greater. The Southland continues to be one of the fastest growing areas in Illinois with infrastructure development lagging behind.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) based its analysis on hypotheticals and seems more geared to provincial political concerns than project facts. In the Southland, we call this Chicago politics as usual.

CMAP claims that it wants to encourage growth around the urban core, and has said that this project goes against their goals. If that is the case, how must planning for Will County continue? If it is not to be considered part of regional planning efforts, how do we factor in population growth that is actually happening?

IDOT used an apples-to-apples comparison in its analysis, which shows much lower costs that are far more accurate than CMAP’s Tribune acknowledged hypotheticals and guesswork. I’m inclined to go with IDOTs estimate. IDOT builds roads. CMAP bureaucrats and ivory towered media elite appear to be making up statistics to justify continued neglect of the Southland.

Numerous studies show the Illiana is a minimal financial risk for taxpayers. In fact, since the roadway will be built through a public-private partnership, if bids come in too high, the roadway will not be built – plain and simple. If you believe in the free market system, why not let the market determine whether this roadway is actually viable?

Illinois’ interstates are the ‘Crossroads of the Nation’. Will we continue the needed investment to keep this title? Or will we lack the foresight to invest in our infrastructure and create good paying jobs? I received no clearer mandate than that our communities are suffering. I heard it, loud and clear. We need jobs NOW.

Illinois is truly approaching a crossroads. There are those who say that this road is being built in “nowhere-land”. On behalf of the 1.8 million people who live and raise families here in the Southland, this mentality is indicative of the bias against our region that we have been dealing with for decades.

Toi W. Hutchinson State Senator 40th District

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