The Illiana Expressway seems to be getting closer to reality. It should; it was envisioned more than a century ago.
Daniel Burnham's landmark Plan of Chicago saw the need for an outer ring around the Chicago metro area to facilitate the distribution of goods and people. The Illiana Expressway is part of that missing link.
The current proposal for the expressway includes alternative routes. By the end of this year, a single route is expected to be selected. Then the debate over whether to build it can begin in earnest.
At last week's Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission meeting, the agency said it is preparing comments on the draft environmental impact statement being done for the proposed expressway. NIRPC's population projections don't agree with those of the Illiana task force formed by the Indiana and Illinois departments of transportation.
But that was a technical review, not a substantive public policy decision.
There will be not-in-my-back-yard opposition concerned about the impact on individual properties. Those complaints must be heard.
But the focus should remain on the big picture — the need for a new interstate highway to help route traffic through the Chicago metro area.
The purpose is to alleviate traffic on the Borman Expressway, Indiana Toll Road and U.S. 30 in Lake County and Interstate 80 and U.S. 30 in Illinois. It will allow traffic — mostly trucks — to skirt around much of Chicago and the Borman.
Regardless of the accuracy of population projections, it is a given that traffic will increase. All it takes is a look at the geography to see why.
All traffic between Chicago the East Coast has to go around Lake Michigan. The shortest, fastest route goes south of the lake, right through Northwest Indiana.
And this would be the first new expressway in Northwest Indiana in more than half a century.
The Illiana project is on the fast track. Now keep up this fast pace for the outer ring expressway recommended more than a century ago.