CROWN POINT | A state highway official who asked Lake County officials for help in planning the Illiana Expressway instead got an earful of why the proposed highway is a bad idea.
"We oppose any road closures in south Lake County. Your proposal will endanger the safety of the citizens, police, fire, ambulance, highway department and school buses and put a tremendous burden on remaining north-south roads," said Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point.
State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, complained the Illiana is designed to promote a major airport in Peotone and export truck traffic woes from Illinois communities to Lake County.
"I can't see any benefit to Indiana," Niemeyer said.
The 60-mile highway would run from Interstate 65, just south of 153rd Avenue, west between Lowell and Cedar Lake in what is currently a 2,000-foot-wide corridor that will narrow to 400 feet this fall when a decision is made on whether to build or abandon the highway.
It would continue west, past the site of a proposed airport at Peotone and merge with Interstate 55 in Illinois.
The highway would cut across 15 north-south roads in south Lake County, and the current plan is to close the least-traveled roads, including Sheffield Avenue, White Oak Avenue, Cline Avenue, Holtz Road, Marshall Street, Harrison Street, Broadway and Mississippi Street. That would divert traffic onto State Line Road, U.S. 41, Parrish Avenue, Morse Street and Ind. 55 (known as Nine Mile Stretch).
County Highway Superintendent Marcus Malczewski said the proposed closure of five crossroads between Lowell and I-65 worries him the most. Holtz Road is often used as an ambulance route.
James A. Earl II, project manager for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said those closures can be reconfigured by taking public safety concerns over ambulance and school bus routes into consideration.
Earl asked county officials to help design a better highway rather than spin worst-case scenarios against it.
County Surveyor George Van Til said he will provide the state with information about at least 16 waterways crossing the proposed highway's corridor.
County Planning Director Ned Kovachevich said he will provide state officials land use information.
"There is a lot of residential development slated between Cedar Lake and Lowell," he said.
Dan Murchek, assistant county police chief, said Sheriff John Buncich also opposes any road closures.