EDITORIAL: Illiana Expressway offers route to region's future

2013-10-11T00:00:00Z 2013-10-11T10:25:08Z EDITORIAL: Illiana Expressway offers route to region's future nwitimes.com
October 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning full board foolishly voted against the Illiana Expressway on Wednesday.

The level of emotion surrounding this issue, particularly from those who don't want it in their back yard and from those whose focus doesn't see beyond Chicago's city limits, is high.

Leading the opposition is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who argues approval of the Illiana would jeopardize funding for Chicago roadway projects. That is, simply said, proof of his tunnel vision for the roadway needs of the greater Chicago region.

Criticism of the name Illiana Expressway on the grounds that it would become a toll road is an example how opponents view the proposal. A quick vocabulary lesson for these people: A freeway doesn't charge tolls, a tollway does, and an expressway is any roadway that has limited access and keeps traffic flowing at high speeds.

The CMAP board's vote Wednesday is disappointing, and short-sighted, but it is not a death knell for the Illiana Expressway that has been pursued for so long.

The votes that really count are from the CMAP metropolitan planning organization and from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, where the full board and the metropolitan planning organization are the same thing.

Both organizations need to amend their 2040 plans to include the Illiana Expressway.

Daniel Burnham urged Chicago to "make no small plans," and the Illiana is certainly no small plan. It would generate jobs even as it adds a vital piece of infrastructure in a region that depends on infrastructure for its economic lifeblood.

Critics quibble over the degree to which jobs would be generated and over the amount of traffic congestion relief this project would provide on other roads. But connecting Interstate 65 north of Lowell to Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill., would generate enough jobs to cause a major boost to the Chicago area's economy.

Let's see what interested bidders think of the project instead of killing it before they even get to that chance.

The Borman Expressway and U.S. 30 are already crowded and cannot be expanded.

It has been more than half a century since a Northwest Indiana expressway was built and more than a century since Burnham proposed this outer ring expressway.

Keep the process moving by adding the road to the planning organizations' 2040 plans. Look to the future, as planning organizations are supposed to do.

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