The Illiana Expressway, to be built as a toll road, has the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's* blessing and should be included in the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's 2040 transportation plan as well.
Even as NIRPC listens to public comments, the Indiana Department of Transportation and its Illinois counterpart are moving forward on plans to build the tollway. INDOT and the Indiana Finance Authority on Tuesday announced a request for qualifications for the Illiana Corridor project.
The RFQ process allows the agencies to vet private partners interested in designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining the new highway.
Each state is handling its own segment of the proposed road separately, but they are working together on technical requirements, tolling policy, the federal environmental approval process and construction schedules.
A meeting hosted by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence earlier this year drew a large crowd of interested potential partners.
Now it's time to start thinning the herd of potential partners to identify the one best suited for the project.
It's also time to continue hearing public comments before NIRPC votes on the Illiana proposal.
Many of the comments from people in the path of the proposed 47-mile toll road are opposed to change. But change is already coming to their area.
More and more people are moving to the southern edge of Northwest Indiana, and they're finding truck traffic on their local roads. That's traffic that should be siphoned off those roads and onto the Illiana Expressway. The new road will offer congestion relief for U.S. 30 and the Borman Expressway as well.
Residents' concerns have been heard. Indiana's portion of the road includes overpasses at White Oak Avenue, Parrish Avenue, Cline Ave, Morse Street, Mount Street, Holtz Road, Broadway, Mississippi Street as well as interchanges at U.S. 41, Ind. 55 and Interstate 65.
The proposed road would connect I-65 near Lowell to I-55 near Wilmington, Ill.
The Indiana project includes adding lanes to I-65 between U.S. 30 and Ind. 2.
Indiana's request for proposals anticipates "substantial completion" for the Indiana portion of the project by June 2018. It's a fast pace, as highway construction goes, but it's a project that is long overdue.
The Illiana Expressway will deliver construction jobs, of course, but it will also bring additional jobs to the region once it opens, and it will bring congestion relief as well.
*This editorial has been changed from the original, to correct the agency's name.