A draft study of the Illiana Expressway just released by a bistate task force leaves three possible routes under consideration, putting off any determination of a final route until later this year.
The inclusion of three routes in the draft environmental impact statement represents a small victory for local officials in South Lake County. Those officials protested earlier this year when the task force picked a "preferred corridor" starting at Interstate 65 just south of 153rd Avenue.
"I don't know if this is just because of the public outcry or what," Lowell Town Councilman Craig Earley said Thursday. "All of a sudden the southern route was back on the drawing board again. I'm assuming we'll get a fair shake and a good listen."
The southern route that is back on the drawing board, listed as B4 on maps, starts much farther south on I-65 south of 205th Avenue. It heads northwest and joins up with the former preferred corridor on the Illinois side of the state line. However, that corridor, listed as B3 on maps, also remains in the running.
A third proposed route, listed as A3S2, starts in the same area as B3 just south of 153rd Avenue. The two routes are basically the same until they reach the state line, then A3S2 heads northwest to skirt the north side of the proposed airport at Peotone.
With all three alternatives, expressway interchanges in Indiana would be located at I-65, Ind. 55 and U.S. 41. In Illinois interchanges would be located at Ill. 1, Interstate 57, U.S. 45, Ill. 53, and Ill. 55 and possibly U.S. 52.
Two public hearings on the draft environmental impact statement will be held soon. The first is set for 5 p.m. July 31 at Peotone High School, 605 W. North St. The second is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 1 at Lowell Middle School, 19250 Cline Ave.
The deadline for public comments on the draft statement is Aug. 29. Comments can be submitted at the public hearings or through the project's website, www.illianacorridor.org, or at department of transportation offices.
Late this year, the departments of transportation in the two states should be ready to submit the study in final form to various state and federal agencies for review. That study likely will contain one recommended route corridor to study. If the study wins approval, the states would begin an engineering and financial study of the recommended route.
Property purchases and takings also could commence next year. But 2015 is the earliest construction could start, according to transportation officials.
A study commissioned by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation four years ago put a price tag of $1 billion on the Illiana Expressway. But the route in that study was about 12 miles shorter than the current proposal.
The draft environmental impact statement released this week contains no overall pricetag for building the 50-mile expressway, said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley.
The draft study also lists archaeological and historical landmarks that may have to be dealt with if a road is built. In Indiana, those include the Fuller Family Cemetery, in West Creek Township, and a number of historic farm homesteads.