CHICAGO - Newly installed Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's executive order halting new contracts and planning on major interstate projects not yet underway puts a hold on some tollway agency contracts and work on the proposed Illiana toll road.

Soon after taking office on Jan. 12, Rauner signed an executive order directing agency heads to submit all contracts signed since November 1 to his office for review and he ordered a halt to the awarding, entering into, amending or renewing of state contracts and grants.

Contracts required by law, emergency expenditures, small purchases, and those for essential operations were exempt. Contracts tied to major interstate projects not already underway are also subject to the order, according to a statement from Rauner's office.

Rauner's directive will put some contracts tied to bridge reconstruction work for a toll road expansion project planned by the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority on temporary hold. The work is planned under an ongoing 15-year $12 billion partially bond-financed capital program.

The order also puts on hold preliminary work on the proposed $1.5 billion Illiana tollroad that would be financed through separate public private partnerships struck by Illinois and Indiana.

Rauner said the halt on contracts and review is needed due to the state's fiscal struggles.

"Years of bad decisions have put Illinois in a financial crisis," Rauner said. "Today we start the process of putting our state back on the road to fiscal stability by reviewing agency spending, stopping contracts and grants, and selling excess state property."

The fate of the Illiana project has come under question under Rauner.

He hasn't taken a public position on the controversial project but he recently nominated Randy Blankenhorn for secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Blankenhorn is the executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

CMAP staff recommended against inclusion of the Illiana project in the long term plan for the region known as GO TO 2040 and Blankenhorn was critical of Illinois DOT forecasts and projections used in its assessment. A related policy committee that also holds sway over the GO TO 2040 plan voted recently to keep the project in the blueprint.

The Federal Highway Administration recently issued its tier two record of decision marking the completion of the project's environmental planning phase. The 47-mile road would link northwest Illinois Interstate 65 with Illinois' Interstate 55.

The two states have finalized a development pact for the project that commits the two to a combined funding contribution of up to $350 million. The binding agreement calls for both states to use their best efforts to complete their respective portion of the project by the end of 2018.

The project would be financed through a mix of state and federal transportation program funds, proceeds of bonds, private activity borrowing, Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans, and developer contributions.

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