The truth behind Chicago resistance to development of an Illiana Expressway came into focus last week.
The Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago issued a lengthy statement urging the expressway not be included in Illinois' 2040 transportation plan for the Chicago area. It argued the cost was out of kilter and the road wouldn't benefit Chicago.
Therein lies the truth. MPC, while speaking regionalization, appears to be protecting its home Chicago turf.
For instance, the analysis by MPC predicts “a net outflow of jobs and population from Illinois to Indiana.” Well, what a disastrous thought.
It also seeks to protect funding for highway projects in Chicago, such as extension of the “red line” commuter service or a “west loop transportation project.”
It neglects to address highway needs in Northwest Indiana. In particular, it offers no alternative to lessen the gridlock of the Borman Expressway, a route that by the way serves Chicago commerce.
MPC fails to look at the long-term value of the new expressway – to be funded by tolls – at getting heavy truck traffic moving from Chicago south to I-65 and away from overcrowded Northwest Indiana roads such as the Borman.
Daniel Burnham, the visionary who mapped Chicago's future, saw the need way back then for such a route around Chicago.
MPC, which until recently had done some work in Northwest Indiana, seems to have pulled back. Could it be the nonprofit's financing primarily comes from Chicago and it feels a need to shape an Illiana answer acceptable to its Chicago benefactors? After all, its representatives often complained as part of its relationship with the One Region initiative that it could get few dollars from Northwest Indiana.
I am sad that an organization such as MPC appears to be falling into the old provincial trap of protecting its home turf while talking of building a stronger metropolitan Chicago region that includes Northwest Indiana.
Perhaps, as some suggest, it is simply the state line that serves as a barrier.
Rep. Pete Visclosky is quick to produce a map of the Chicago region showing more than 500 miles of commuter tracks on the Chicago side of the state line but the lone South Shore line through Northwest Indiana.
Just think what might evolve in Northwest Indiana if it had an expanded commuter rail line and a new expressway that brought relief to existing highways. Keep in mind the taxes in Illinois and the advantages to living or operating a company in Indiana.
Let's hope our regional planning group – the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission – makes the right choice and includes the Illiana in its 2040 plan.
The state transportation agencies in Indiana and Illinois have seen the value of an Illiana Expressway. Their analysis shows it workable and thus they are moving forward with its development.
Don't let the misguided self-benefiting findings of the MPC throw the project off track for a well thought-out future in Northwest Indiana.