PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — A proposed 47-mile toll road that
would link northwest Indiana and Chicago's south suburbs passed a key
hurdle Thursday when a regional planning board voted in favor of it,
clearing the way for it to be submitted for federal approval.
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission approved the Illiana
Expressway, which would connect Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate
55 south of Chicago, on a weighted voted of 76-20, The Times of Munster
reported. Each member's vote was based the population of the community the
Bob Alderman, the Indiana Department of Transportation deputy commissioner
and a non-voting member of the planning commission, urged members to
approve the expressway, saying it will make the Interstate 80-94 Borman
Expressway and other roads safer.
"Do you feel good about your families being out there (on the Borman)?"
Alderman asked. "Do you feel good about your friends being out there?"
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. failed in his attempt to delay the
vote, urging the commission to wait because the NIRPC committee in charge
of implementing its 2040 plan had been unable to come to a decision for or
against the Illiana Expressway.
"We are taking people's homes with this," McDermott said. "We are changing
the landscape of south Lake County."
The plan previously had been approved by a similar Illinois board. The
next step is to receive federal approval.
James A. Earl, INDOT project manager, told the Post-Tribune that Indiana
and Illinois will each hold public hearings in mid-January to allow
comments on the environmental impact of the project. No date or place has
been set for those hearings, he said.
Those findings will be submitted to the Federal Highway Administration for
approval, which could come as early as March, INDOT spokesman Jim
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn both support the
project, saying it would promote economic development. Critics maintain
the $1.3 billion road would have minimal impact on economic development
and is too costly.
If approved, work could begin as early as 2015.