Voice of the People
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) serves as
the Council of Governments and Metropolitan Planning Organization for
planning and programming for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. Our board is
comprised of 51 elected officials representing the 41 municipalities and the
3 counties in the region.
Our responsibilities include planning in the areas of transportation,
environment, and economic development and our planning focus is long-range
and regional in nature.
When NIRPC adopted its long-range transportation plan for the horizon year
2030 in April 2005, it also unanimously passed a resolution calling for the
Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to conduct a feasibility study
to determine whether a need exists for a new interstate highway in the
southern portion of the region, which has been generally referred to as the
Among the major reasons for seeking the proposed feasibility study at this
time are the following:
1. Northwest Indiana is experiencing significant growth pressure,
particularly in central Lake County. In addition to placing increased
demands upon all modes of our transportation system, development activity is
moving southward rapidly and may jeopardize the opportunity to develop any
such facility in the future.
2. Between 1983 and 2003, the average amount of time lost annually for every
Chicago-area commuter increased from 20 to 60 hours per person. The annual
cost associated with wasted fuel and time delays is now estimated at
approximately $1,000 per year according to the Texas Transportation
3. Roadway congestion and the resultant idling contribute to diminished air
quality, with Lake and Porter counties currently designated as severe
non-attainment areas under federal clean air laws.
4. Forecasts indicate a 50% increase in truck traffic on the Borman
Expressway over the next 20 years. Increased truck traffic is also being
experienced on U.S. 30 and other major roadways in the region.
5. Future widening of the Borman Expressway is questionable because of
adjacent Little Calumet River flood plain, wetlands, and urbanized areas,
with enormous costs associated with widening beyond existing right-of-way.
6. The Illiana could become part of a larger circumferential system for
northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana (I-355), which currently
extends from Schaumburg to Bolingbrook in the western Chicago suburbs and is
being extended to I-80 in New Lenox at this time.
In addition to mobility issues, however, it is important that the
feasibility study assess other impacts associated with the Illiana. The
study must assess fully the environmental impacts of such a proposed
facility and the ability to minimize them. The implications for regional
land use, the resultant demands upon other public infrastructure, and the
potential impacts on minority and low-income communities must also be
considered. An in-depth assessment should be made of the economic costs and
benefits associated of this project. It is also important that there be
extensive and meaningful input of local public officials and private
citizenry throughout the planning process.
The need for this study clearly exists. The opportunity for a comprehensive
review of all reasonable alternatives will one day be lost, and the sooner
that a feasibility study identifies the issues and determines a reasonable
course of action, the better.
We strongly urge the members of the General Assembly and the State
Administration to authorize and proceed with this important feasibility
study of the Illiana Expressway.
John A. Swanson