Chesterton Tribune

NIRPC supports study of Illiana expressway

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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 Illiana Expressway.

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 Institute.

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

Executive Director

 

Posted 3/5/2007

 

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