Illiana Expressway study now in local libraries

2013-02-13T14:53:00Z 2013-02-14T16:54:03Z Illiana Expressway study now in local librariesBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

An examination of the environmental impacts of the proposed Illiana Expressway and the official decision to move forward with the B3 route running between Lowell and Cedar Lake are now available to the public.

The Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement and the official Record of Decision designating the B3 route for further study are now available in selected libraries and online, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The Tier I Final Environmental Impact Statement contains a description of the project, alternatives, impacts on the environment and proposed ways to lessen those impacts. A draft environmental impact statement was the subject of public hearings in the summer and around 600 comments were submitted by individuals.

The B3 corridor recommended by a bi-state task force and now approved by the Federal Highway Administration starts at Interstate 65 just south of 153rd Avenue and runs between Lowell and Cedar Lake before heading almost directly west to Wilmington, Ill., where it would join Interstate 55.

A tier II environmental impact study has already begun, which will narrow down the proposed 2,000-foot wide corridor approved by the Federal Highway Administration to a 400-foot wide swath, according to Indiana Department of Transportation officials. That study will also do a detailed engineering study of the road and its interchanges, as well as an examination of how its construction would be financed.

INDOT officials and a bi-state task force estimate the cost to build the 50-mile toll road will be between $1.3 billion and $1.6 billion. The tier II study will examine the feasibility of both traditional funding methods as well as public-private partnerships, such as is being used on the Ohio River Bridges Project East End Crossing between downtown Louisville, Ky., and Indiana.

The tier II study could be completed in 2014 and also would have to be submitted to federal officials for their approval. INDOT officials have said property purchases for road right-of-way could start in the second half of this year and there will be no state takings of land until at least 2014.

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