Updated: November 20, 2012 11:04AM
After several public meetings in three counties over the past four months, transportation officials in Illinois and Indiana are back where they started with the proposed Illiana Expressway. And that’s a good thing.
The Illinois Department of Transportation and its Indiana counterpart this week again chose as the highway’s preferred route the middle of three being considered. It would run for 47 miles, mostly in a straight line and through farmland, from Interstate 55 north of Wilmington to Interstate 65 between Cedar Lake and Lowell in Lake County, Ind.
The two states’ transportation departments had selected the route, known as Corridor B3, in February from among eight possibilities but agreed this summer to reconsider it with two other routes after objections were raised by town officials and legislators from South Cook and Will counties. They complained the route was too far from residential and business areas, especially some major intermodal centers.
The corridor is the best because it’s the shortest and least expensive and will have the least overall impact on the environment and on displacing homes and businesses. The northern route promoted by many in South Cook and Will counties would be the longest of the three options, the most expensive and would require the removal of many more residences and businesses.
Residents and leaders in Channahon fought especially hard against that route because it would’ve hit the village hard — requiring the destruction of up to 40 houses and the removal of the village’s access to I-55 at Bluff Road.
The planners’ recommendation now goes to the Federal Highway Administration, which must approve the Illiana route.
While we support the highway and the preferred route, we acknowledge that it may not be built because no federal or state funds are available. It will likely have to be a tollway, and the two governors have proposed just that, also suggesting that it be built under a public-private partnership.
But at least those whose homes and livelihoods were possibly jeopardized by the project now know how it will affect them, if at all.