Thursday's vote on the Illiana Expressway by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's policy committee shows CMAP can look beyond Chicago interests and examine what's in the best interest of the entire metropolitan area.
The CMAP vote, 11 to 8, means the Illiana Expressway could eventually receive federal approval. The committee's vote overrules the full CMAP board and means the Illiana will be included in the agency's long-range plan.
That crucial vote also means the ball is now in the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's court.
Before NIRPC votes, however, there are additional hoops the plan must go through.
There are four meetings on the proposed road next month before NIRPC's Transportation Policy Committee and the full board are scheduled to take separate votes in December.
There are many details to be worked out yet, and CMAP's vote lets the process of figuring out those details go forward.
The Illiana Expressway would connect Interstate 65 just north of Lowell with I-55 near Wilmington, Ill. It would siphon truck traffic off U.S. 30, the Borman Expressway and other nearby roads.
The new expressway would be built as a toll road, financed through a public-private partnership. The details of that arrangement need to be worked out.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and their transportation departments want the road built. So did architect and urban planner Daniels Burnham, who included it in his iconic Plan of Chicago more than a century ago.
The expressway is controversial, to say the least. An overflow crowd attended Thursday's CMAP meeting, with speakers voicing support or opposition to the plan. There are vocal elements in Northwest Indiana as well.
But look not just at what it might do to someone's back yard but also what it would do to the region as a whole.
Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider told the Associated Press last week the tollway could generate an estimated 9,000 construction jobs and could attract intermodal shipping facilities that would generate additional jobs. The benefits would extend along the entire route, in both Illinois and Indiana.
There are public meetings set up, so attend and speak your mind. As you do so, understand the importance of approving the Illiana Expressway so the process of building this necessary road can go forward.