The public comment period for the proposed Illiana Expressway has ended.
The NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) have had their say. The traffic experts have spoken.
The fate of the project rests with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. To qualify for federal funding, the project must be part of NIRPC’s long-range plan.
And that means there must be a plurality of votes favoring the Illiana among the 53 members of the commission. That vote comes Dec. 12.
It’s those 53 members who are now being targeted. Can they be persuaded for or against?
Those living in or near the path of the expressway argue it isn't needed. Proposed reduction to traffic on northern routes won’t justify building a new road, they argue.
Some north Lake County officials worry it will adversely impact business at truck stops along the Borman Expressway.
But transportation planners argue that traffic, particularly on the Borman and U.S. 30, will be reduced. And the new expressway, they advocate, will bring opportunities for development benefiting the region’s economy.
What to me is missing from this argument is the most compelling reason to build the expressway – safety.
Take a drive on the Borman. Have just one of the thousands of 18-wheelers daily on the Borman follow you within inches. It’s a scary and dangerous experience.
The Illiana will allow a portion of those trucks to bypass the Borman. That will make the Borman a less cluttered and safer route.
That is the argument persuading me to support the Illiana.
Those worried about business at truck stops need to look at the real issues. After all, thousands of “through” semis will still use the Borman as an east-west route. They will still need the truck stops for fueling and feeding.
Safety is the paramount reason to build a new expressway. But it will also allow easier access to Chicago and its western and northwest suburbs for those living in southern parts of the region.
For my money, the time has come and gone for the debate.
The focus should be on the worthiness of a project that will benefit the region for generations.
I assume that like the debate over constructing the Borman in the 1950s and ’60s, time will prove the Illiana’s naysayers wrong.