South Lake County residents opposed to the Illiana Expressway picked up a few important allies among representatives of transit agencies and northern communities in Tuesday's vote on the Illiana Expressway.
The vote of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission committee was overwhelmingly for approval.
But a vote against it by a Hammond representative and an abstention by Gary's representative could loom large in next week's critical vote of the full NIRPC board.
Hammond City Engineer Stan Dostatni voted against the proposed 47-mile expressway while Gary City Planner Dwayne Williams abstained from voting.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who will vote next week as a member of the full NIRPC board, said earlier this week he is still officially undecided, but his vote may be inferred from how other city employees vote this week.
Williams confirmed Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who has a vote next week, is still undecided. Williams said he abstained from voting because the administration feels more facts are needed before it can take a position.
If two NIRPC members move to make the Dec. 12 full board vote by a procedure known as "weighted voting," McDermott's and Freeman-Wilson's votes will loom large. That's because each NIRPC member's voting power would be proportional to the population of their municipality.
That means McDermott's one vote would count for 10.5 percent of the total votes cast and Freeman-Wilson's for 10.4 percent.
Neither Dostatni nor Williams is a member of the full NIRPC board.
A few other northern community representatives also voted against amending NIRPC's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan to include the Illiana Expressway on Tuesday. Those were Gary Public Transit Planning and Marketing Director David Wright, Michigan City Transit Director Robert Strader, Munster Town Engineer Jim Mandon and Chesterton Town Engineer Mark O'Dell.
However, none of those four are members of the full NIRPC board, so they will not be voting next week.