PORTAGE │ Opponents of the proposed Illiana Expressway voiced their concerns to the Transportation Policy Committee of the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission at a meeting Tuesday.
NIRPC and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in Illinois must approve the expressway before it can be built. NIRPC has not yet taken a position on the expressway, but the Illinois agency could do so as early as this summer and is currently undergoing its public comment period.
Throughout the rest of August NIRPC staff will prepare a white paper that will be distributed to NIRPC commissioners by Labor Day. That document will examines how the Illiana project fits into the agency’s 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. Additional work includes a Congestion Management Process, an analysis of alternative projects.
A 30-day public commenting period then will follow a Sept. 10 Transportation Policy Committee meeting only if the analysis of alternative projects is approved.
Opponents of the Illiana, like Sandy Linden, of Deer Creek in Winfield Township, want NIRPC to keep it out of its 2040 plan.
“There are better ways to spend transportation money in Indiana,” Linden said. “There’s no measurable benefit to Lake County. And there’s definitely no benefit to Porter or LaPorte counties. For people who say we need jobs there would be plenty of union construction jobs to fix our other roads and improve those.”
Ted Gross, of Lowell, said he’d rather see the money support the Gary/Chicago International Airport, a new port at Inland Steel and a trauma center.
“We’ll put a lot of people to work in Indiana if we do that,” he said. “Let’s just let the Illiana go. Use money to improve existing highways. Our highways are going to the dogs.”
Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton said they are continuing their discussions with the public and local officials as questions come up regarding the Illiana.
“It’s on ongoing process, and we’re still keeping the communication lines open,” he said.
In other news, the committee decided to table a resolution stating NIRPC’s support for INDOT to provide the required financial support to maintain and improve Amtrak’s Hoosier State service between Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, until after a local transportation roundtable meeting on Wednesday.
Stephen Sostaric, NIRPC regional planner, said INDOT is not considering using existing public mass transit funding to fund the Amtrak service, although it is still unclear where the funding would come from.