Illiana Expressway coming into sharper focus

2013-06-17T21:12:00Z 2013-07-15T12:15:06Z Illiana Expressway coming into sharper focusKeith Benman, (219) 933-3326

Illiana Expressway planners are using ever sharper pencils, with more than 200 people at a public meeting Monday getting a more precise picture of the 46.8-mile road's route, its interchanges and frontage roads.

But that wasn't making many south Lake County residents feel any better about the proposed toll road linking Interstate 65 in Indiana with Interstate 55 in Illinois.

"The fact is I just moved out here three years ago to get away from the congestion and noise," said Ken Roach as he peered at a map showing an I-65 interchange ramp passing less than 1,000 feet from his home. "So here we are. We'll have this expressway right in our yard."

Roach and neighbor Jessica Valant made sure to stop to sign a petition in opposition to the road circulated by the group No Illiana 4 Us before going to look at maps laid out by planners in the gym of Lowell Middle School.

There to sign them up in the school lobby was Illinois dairy farmer Virginia Hamann, who said her father-in-law had politely kicked Illiana Expressway surveyors off their farm earlier in the day.

"Here we are at another public meeting, and most of what we see is the public is against it. So who is for it? It makes you think this is all just a dog and pony show so they can come in and force eminent domain on us."

Monday's public meeting at the middle school comes just months before planners and a local task force will make a final recommendation on the road's exact route, narrowing it down even further. A public hearing on that determination will take place in the fall.

A meeting similar to Monday's is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday at Peotone High School.

Monday's meeting in Lowell generated somewhat less heat than one in April, when residents often shouted in protest at answers given by planners and applauded comments and questions posed by audience members.

On Monday, moderators, in the same one-hour time slot, read questions from postcards submitted by the audience and tried to answer them as best they could. Questions included everything from wetland protection to the expressway's effect on the development of the Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Not everyone at Monday's meeting was against the proposed road.

Charles Johnson, a business representative for Union of Operating Engineers 150, said construction and operation of the road will create jobs.

"It will be a huge jobs generator," he said. "And down the road in the end, it will help everybody. In the end, all the money will come back to the community."

Illiana Expressway planners estimate it could take $1.3 billion to build the toll road. They hope to enlist private investors to pay that price tag in exchange for a cut of toll collections.

Starting Monday, the two state departments of transportation will attempt to attract investors and solicit their ideas for financing at a two-day event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn are expected to be on hand to address the assembled bankers and construction managers.

For more photos, information and readers' comments on the proposed Illiana Expressway, go to

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