Officials fear for emergency services when Illiana Expressway built

2014-02-20T20:15:00Z 2014-02-21T12:24:08Z Officials fear for emergency services when Illiana Expressway builtKeith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com
February 20, 2014 8:15 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Public officials made it known local emergency responders will need help if the Illiana Expressway is built.

"Our emergency medical services and our firefighters have to be our No. 1 priority," Cedar Lake Township Trustee Alice Dahl said Thursday at a lightly attended public hearing about the proposed road.

Lowell Town Councilman Craig Earley estimated the expressway will have Lowell emergency responders going to 50 percent more calls than currently, with no corresponding increase in revenue to fund those services.

Both made their point at a hearing to take public comment on an Economic Impact Study of the Illiana Corridor commissioned by the Indiana Finance Authority. Under Indiana law, the IFA must take public comment on any public works project being done as a public-private partnership, such as the Illiana Expressway.

The study found that land acquired for building the Illiana Expressway will result in $15 million in assessed value being dropped from local property tax rolls. That will translate into about $70,000 less in taxes for townships and other taxing entities.

However, according to the study, tax collections will begin to increase as the expressway project gets underway, resulting in $40.7 million in new tax revenues annually within 33 years. That figure includes excise and other taxes paid by people working the new jobs that will be created. Net new jobs eventually could exceed 10,000, according to the study.

Consultant Chandler Duncan said almost all the positive impact will come as the result of people moving into the region. The study did not find that large industrial or commercial enterprises will locate in the region because of the Illiana Expressway.

The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 northeast of Lowell to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. It would cost an estimated $1.5 billion.

Late in the hearing, Lowell-area resident Ed Linden said the only reason there were eight members of the public at the hearing was because his wife had called and told everyone of them about it.

INDOT Illiana Corridor project manager James Earl said public notice of the meeting was posted as required by law 10 days in advance. He acknowledged that's not what people are accustomed to, because for the separate environmental impact study being done by INDOT and IDOT notices are customarily sent out to hundreds of people by email and U.S. Postal Service mail for every hearing.

More than 200 people attended a public hearing on the environmental impact study in Lowell on Tuesday night.

He also acknowledged no one from the IFA was actually at the hearing. But he affirmed all comments received would be entered into the public record for IFA's use.

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