It has been half a century since an expressway was last built in Northwest Indiana and twice as long since what must become the Illiana Expressway was first proposed. The planning process for that road must go smoothly now that it has finally begun.
The Illiana Expressway — a bistate, 50-mile toll road that will help fill the role of an outer ring around Chicago, as proposed in the 1909 Burnham Plan of Chicago — is still in the early planning stages.
Eventually, the road will need to be approved by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission for including in the agency's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. That plan already has been drafted, following three years of public input, discussion and debate, and the Illiana Expressway wasn't included. Simply put, the Illiana plan wasn't ready yet.
Well, that's what amendments are for.
To smooth the approval process, NIRPC and the Indiana Department of Transportation must remain in communication with each other.
The benefits of the Illiana Expressway will include siphoning truck traffic off U.S. 30 and the Borman Expressway, making traffic on those roads flow more smoothly. That's important, because there is no more room to add lanes on the Borman, and traffic has grown exponentially since that expressway opened. Building the Illiana means accommodating not just the existing traffic, but also the traffic that will continue to grow.
Planners at INDOT, NIRPC and elsewhere must not lose sight of this fact.
Nor should they forget the need to keep the public and their counterparts at other agencies informed of developments as the Illiana planning continues. Address concerns early on so they don't become major problems later.
Easing current and future traffic congestion requires moving forward with the Illiana Expressway. By all means, keep NIRPC up to speed. Pave the way for a smooth approval process.