NIRPC policy committee OKs Illiana plan
By Carole Carlson Sun-Times Media December 3, 2013 7:34PM
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub objects to construction of the Illiana Expressway Tuesday morning at a Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission meeting. "This is not the answer," he said. | Carole Carlson/Sun-Times Media
Illiana at a glance
What: NIRPC meeting
and vote on Illiana
When: 9 a.m. Dec. 12
Where: Woodland Park, 2100
Willowcreek Road, Portage
Updated: January 5, 2014 6:41AM
PORTAGE — By an 18-8 vote with one abstention, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s Transportation Policy Committee agreed to add the Illiana Tollway to its 2040 master plan.
The future of the project in Indiana will now be voted on by the full NIRPC board at its Dec. 12 meeting.
If the NIRPC board votes it down, the project would be stopped. The meeting will take place at Woodland Park.
The Indiana Department of Transportation wants NIRPC to add the 47-mile bi-state Illiana to its 2040 master plan.
The committee listened to nearly two hours of public comment Tuesday. Jim Pinkerton, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state’s up front costs for the road were estimated at about $110 million, not the previously reported $180 million.
Another INDOT representative said revenue generated by Illiana would outweigh its costs.
Lowell resident Jean Hulsey, who said Illiana would run just south of her property, said she was disappointed with the vote. “People do not give a darn about the feelings of others. It’s going to pollute the area.”
Lowell resident Ed Linden said he was dismayed that the widening of Interstate 65, from Indiana 231 to Indiana 2, was packaged with INDOT’s request for Illiana’s inclusion in the NIRPC 2040 plan.
“They want to make this smell better,” he said.
There’s also been pushback on the highway from north Lake County elected officials who favored NIRPC’s master plan focus on reviving Northwest Indiana’s urban core cities. Some south Lake County officials also oppose Illiana.
Lake County Commissioner Gerrry Scheub, who represents south Lake County, was first to speak Tuesday and voiced his opposition.
The tollway’s supporters include Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn, along with labor leaders who see the road as a construction job boon and a spark for economic development. Kay Nelson of the Northwest Indiana Forum, spoke in support of the plan.
An INDOT request for support of the widening of Interstate 65 from U.S. 30 south to Indiana 2 is also included in the committee vote.
The Indiana portion of the Illiana would run from the state line east to Interstate 65, just northeast of Lowell. The Illinois section is designed to run through Will and Kankakee counties to Interstates 57 and I-55.
The entire highway is expected to cost about $1.5 billion with Indiana’s share at about $300 million. Officials from both states believe the so-called public/private partnership concept will lead to building the Illiana quicker and cheaper.