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070917-nws-willowcreek

Local officials are again considering a project which would extend Willowcreek Road from its end at County Road 700 North in Portage to U.S. 30 in Union Township.

Unlike its neighbors to the east and west, Porter County has just one main north-south traffic artery. The Porter County commissioners' decision to push forward on the Willowcreek Road extension is long overdue.

This is a project that has been dreamed about for decades.

Traversing the Region should be easier than it currently is. Traffic arteries get clogged easily because there are too few routes. An accident on the Borman Expressway translates into congestion on U.S. 30 and Ridge Road. Too often, traffic overflows onto side roads not meant to handle the additional traffic. 

Additional major routes are needed.

The commissioners hope to extend Willowcreek Road from County Road 700 North, where it currently ends, to Ind. 130, a distance of 1.5 miles to 2 miles. That's the first step toward eventually extending the road to U.S. 30.

Heading north, Willowcreek Road curves north of the Indiana Toll Road to become Crisman Road and, as Indiana 249, continues on to connect with U.S. 20, Interstate 94 and U.S. 12. It needs to go farther south.

On Thursday, the commissioners agreed to seek the Indiana Department of Transportation's assistance in studying potential routes for the extended roadway.

The study will look at environmental and financial impacts of each suggested route, county attorney Scott McClure said.

The cost of that study, like the construction itself, would be paid for with 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent local funds.

"Since federal funds are available for this study, it would be irresponsible for us not to go after them," county Commissioner President Jeff Good said.

It would take until 2019 before the study is completed, followed by in-depth engineering and environmental studies. Ground wouldn't be broken for four or five years, McClure said.

This project was ranked third in a list of priority projects aimed at improving connectivity across Northwest Indiana, according to the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

Ultimately, the road should extend to U.S. 30. But doing this stretch of road first would make the project more manageable.

INDOT should agree with the need for this study. Move forward with this project, then keep the momentum to push south to U.S. 30.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Local News Editor Marc Chase, Lake County Editor Crista Zivanovic, Porter/LaPorte County Editor Doug Ross and Deputy Local Editor Erin Orr.