The Indiana state division of the Izaak Walton League is taking a stand against the proposed Illiana Expressway, contending it will do irreparable harm to the environment and drain resources from other communities.
"We want to be sure everyone is aware of this issue," said Izaak Walton League Porter County Chapter President Jim Sweeney. "And if you weigh all the positives against the negatives, we think that all this money should be used to rebuild existing infrastructure instead of sprawling all over the countryside."
The Illiana Expressway has an estimated $1.3 billion price tag. Transportation officials in both state are hoping private investors will pay for building the 46.8-mile expressway in exchange for a cut of toll revenues. The road would head westward from Interstate 65 in Indiana and run between Lowell and Cedar Lake and then all the way to Interstate 55 in Illinois, near Wilmington.
Sweeney said the Kankakee River watershed in particular would suffer harm from the expressway, including the direct destruction of wetlands and the danger of invasive species spreading through new drainage work.
The Porter County chapter spearheaded the resolution at the Izaak Walton League's state convention earlier this month. Sweeney said Porter County residents feel the state will someday revive original plans to have the expressway extend across Porter County.
He also said the threat to the Kankakee River watershed makes the Illiana Expressway a regional issue spanning both Indiana and Illinois.
Copies of the Izaak Walton League's resolution opposing the expressway have already been distributed to members of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, Sweeney said. That agency will have to vote to include the proposed expressway in its transportation plans if it is to become reality.
State transportation officials have contend environmental best practices will be used when the expressway is built, including plantings of native plant species and route "meanders" that will allow for preservation of wetlands in proximity to the pavement.
Those officials include Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who gave a ringing endorsement of plans for the road at an Illiana Expressway investors forum in Rosemont, Ill., earlier this week.
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