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Not regional enough? The Illiana Expressway and the limits of Chicagoland.

Authors: Julie Cidell*, University of Illinois
Topics: Transportation Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: transportation, distribution, riverscapes, North America, historical geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual Track 13
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The far southwestern suburbs of Chicago have become home to the largest concentration of inland logistics activity in North America. While the Chicagoland region has prioritized logistics as a form of economic development, the growth in truck traffic to, from, and within this subregion has overwhelmed local roads and highways. A variety of new infrastructure projects have been implemented and/or proposed in response, including a new expressway meant to bypass existing chokepoints and enable the wider distribution of truck traffic between Illinois and Indiana.

The Illiana Expressway went through a complicated review process before being turned down by the state governor. Although there were many reasons for the highway’s defeat—including inadequate environmental review and a public-private partnership that placed too much risk on the public—one key element was the inability of project proponents to gain the support of the regional planning agency. At a distance of 45-50 miles from downtown Chicago, the corridor is no farther away than commuter rail lines to the north and northwest. But when regional organizations discussed including the Illiana in their long-term plans, the issue arose of whether this was truly a regional infrastructure project. This paper discusses the debate around the Illiana Expressway in terms of the discursive construction of the geographic limits of the Chicagoland region, including the implications for city-regionalism.

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