MERRILLVILLE | One of the first items on the Town Council's agenda Tuesday night attracted the most attention.
Several members of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 attended the meeting to learn the council's opinion about including the Illiana Expressway in the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.
The members were pleased with the outcome.
The council voted 5-1 to support including the proposed expressway in the regional plan.
"We think it will be a great thing," said John Sorensen, of Operating Engineers Local 150.
Councilman Shawn Pettit, who serves on the NIRPC board, said the board will vote Dec. 12 regarding whether the Illiana Expressway should be included in its regional plan.
"We hope that they approve it," Sorensen said of the NIRPC board.
Sorensen said the employment opportunities associated with the Illiana Expressway are especially important to the area.
"Really, it's all about jobs," he said.
Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, said the building trades support the Illiana Expressway, which would run 47 miles from Interstate 65 to Interstate 55.
Palmateer said Merrillville leaders think regionally, and he applauds them for their "leadership and vision."
Town Councilman Richard Hardaway was the only person who opposed including the expressway in the regional plan.
Hardaway said residents in south Lake County would be affected most by the Illiana Expressway.
He said he is in favor of projects that create jobs, but he won't force a project on "people who don't want it."
Hardaway also said state Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, and Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, are against the Illiana Expressway. He said his opinion would be different if they and south county residents supported it.