Ann Schneider’s recent resignation as head of the Illinois Department of Transportation likely won’t hinder progress on the Illiana Expressway, John Greuling, president and CEO for Will County Center for Economic Development said Wednesday.
Schneider stepped down from her role at the state’s transportation agency earlier this month amid growing concerns about political hiring at the agency. Her stepdaughter was put on the payroll at IDOT and later promoted to a higher-paying patronage-protected job within the department, according to an investigation by the Better Government Association.
Greuling said he believes the issues at IDOT won’t have a long-lasting negative impact on the 47-mile tollway project linking Interstate 55 in Wilmington with I-65 near Lowell, Indiana
“Ann Schneider is one person. The entire [Gov. Pat Quinn] administration has always been supportive of Will County and of the Illiana Expressway,” Greuling said. “Will her resignation negatively impact the project? Maybe a little at first, but I think, overall, no.”
The $1.3 billion project appeared to be on the fast track to construction earlier this year, but has now been delayed amid concerns from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about the project’s potential impact on endangered species.
“That’s the agency that has sort of thrown the roadblock out here,” Greuling said.
Still, he said, the federal review of the project is simply “due diligence” on the state’s part and that he expects the project to move forward.
“This is why the national environmental protection was passed,” Greuling said. “It’s for this kind of due diligence on these projects so that IDOT or engineering firms can’t just sweep this stuff under the rug. There’s a very transparent review process.”
Pending federal approval, construction on the Illiana could start in late summer or fall of 2015.