The Indiana Department of Transportation takes its mission to plan, build, maintain and operate a superior transportation system seriously. That mission includes enhancing safety and mobility and being a key component in promoting economic growth.

Since 2006, when former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels launched his Major Moves initiative, INDOT has invested nearly $600 million dollars in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties. Much of this investment was designed to relieve congestion on area highways.

In 2012, INDOT completed many large infrastructure improvement projects. A new interchange was constructed on Ind. 49 at Vale Park Road in Valparaiso, eliminating an at-grade intersection and traffic signal that had been the scene of many serious accidents. Additional travel lanes have eased congestion on Ind. 2 at I-65, east of Lowell. The Martin Luther King Bridge in Gary was replaced, restoring a north-south link for the community over the Borman Expressway, and major improvements continue along 4th and 5th Avenues (U.S. 12/20) in Gary.

Investment like this has a ripple effect through the community. When people can safely get to their destination without sitting in a traffic jam, they’re more likely to visit regional businesses, and those businesses invest in the local communities. Air quality is improved because people are not sitting in idling cars.

As we move forward this year, our investment in local communities will continue. INDOT has more than $45.5 million in projects planned for the Lake, Porter and LaPorte County areas – projects that will continue to create local construction jobs and improve the way we travel through the region.

INDOT will be seeking input from northwest Indiana residents as Indiana and Illinois transportation officials work to refine plans for the Illiana Corridor project. As we move into the second tier of the study, INDOT and the Illinois Department of Transportation will be designing a specific footprint for the highway. This will involve more community involvement and environmental and socio-economic analysis.

Right now, the Illiana study committee is meeting with local officials to gain input. Conversations with landowners and the public will soon follow. This will allow us to develop a highway that helps safety and mobility, but also fits into its surroundings and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources. It’s the goal of transportation officials in both states to have a successful dialogue with local communities so we can incorporate environmental and community values as we meet transportation objectives.

This is an exciting time for Northwest Indiana as we work together to face our transportation challenges and develop our economy so everyone succeeds. In the years ahead, INDOT will continue to invest in high-traffic and high-crash areas to improve mobility and safety. We also will be working closely with local leaders to identify projects that can serve as economic development tools for our region.

INDOT will provide the safest transportation network possible for Northwest Indiana residents, and will continue to be fiscally responsible as we bring these vital transportation projects to residents in the coming years.

Bob Alderman is deputy commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation. The opinion is the writer's.

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.