Leading Chicago environmental groups sued today to block the Illiana Expressway, saying action on the proposed road at the southern edge of the Chicago area has proceeded in violation of the law.

In an complaint filed on behalf of the Sierra Club and Openlands in Cook County Circuit Court, the Environmental Law & Policy Center alleges that the expressway proposal has not received the required blessing of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which acts as the gatekeeper for federal funds here.

The road was approved by the CMAP’s Policy Committee in a decision that the law center bitterly fought. However, the group says the rejection by a 10-4 vote of the road a week earlier by CMAP’s board is more important legally, according to the complaint. (You can read the whole thing below.)

“The Illinois Department of Transportation is violating Illinois law by spending public funds,” Howard Learner, president of the Chicago-based center, said in a statement. “Illinois state law requires CMAP’s approval, which IDOT cannot legally circumvent.”

IDOT has already begun the process of formally seeking bidders to build and operate the road in a public/private partnership. The suit seeks to block that action and any further expenditure of state money.

The groups previously sued to block the road on other grounds, including that environmental impact studies have been inadequate.

IDOT interprets the law differently, but I don’t have a formal statement yet.

7:00 p.m. update — In a statement, an IDOT spokesman does dispute the Center’s legal position, saying CMAP’s Policy Committee has the power to authorize the project.

“The committee correctly recognized the importance of this project to regional and national mobility and we believe its wise decision to include the Illiana Expressway among its fiscally-constrained projects is final,” the spokesman said.

Full story here.

If you think you may be affected by the Illiana Expressway Project and/or are interested in a free consultation, contact our eminent domain landowner attorneys at 1-888-318-3761 or visit us on the web at www.landownerattorneys.com.