CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled against environmental groups that were seeking to stop a proposed 47-mile highway between Illinois and Indiana.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center initially filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Metropolitan Planning Organization. The center filed the suit on behalf of the Sierra Club and Openlands.
The proposed tollway, known as the Illiana Expressway project, would create a new east-west link between Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Illinois, and Interstate 65 near Lowell, Indiana.
The environmental groups were seeking to protect the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie since the proposed route was near its southern border, according to court records.
The Transportation Department wanted to add the project to the GO TO 2040 long range transportation plan in 2013 and 2014. The Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to include the project. But the lawsuit challenged the move, saying the organization needed approval from the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning first. The Agency for Planning had voted to exclude the project from its regional plans.
The appellate court ruled last month that the board's approval was not mandatory, The Daily Southtown reported . The court said that since the Planning Organization was created by federal law, the Agency for Planning has no authority over it.
The Environmental Law and Policy Center plans to appeal the decision, said Howard Learner, the center's executive director.
Gov. Bruce Rauner put the project on hold in January 2015.
The federal government has ruled that the proposed toll road's Environmental Impact Study isn't valid. The state Transportation Department will need to correct the study, but hasn't yet submitted a revised report, Learner said.