Officials encourage residents to be heard on proposed Illiana Toll Road
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent August 5, 2013 11:28PM
Updated: September 7, 2013 6:15AM
LOWELL — Elected officials representing the area affected by the proposed Illiana Toll Road are asking those against it to make their voices heard.
State Representative Rick Niemeyer, R-11, 7th District Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong and Lowell Town Council representatives told the more than 100 attendees at the town’s VFW Monday night that the Illiana Group, tasked to study the feasibility of the toll road that would cut a swath from 165th Avenue into Illinois, does listen to their concerns. Listening, however, doesn’t equate to acting on their behalf, so it’s up to them to talk to any official who will listen.
Particularly, the men said to target officials who sit on the Northern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, one of the entities that must sign off on the road. And to make their point, folks need to use a stoudy just released by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning report released this week that pans the plan.
“Howard Lerner (who is quoted in the CMAP report) said IDOT’s Illiana Expressway doesn’t come within 10 country miles of reality,” said Bruce Hamann, a road commissioner for Will County who’s also opposed to the Illiana.
Niemeyer said that since he’s been downstate, no one from Governor Mike Pence’s camp, has approached him about the Illiana. Any work he has done on it has been his own efforts and, as such, can’t promise that they’ll be able to stop the road from being put in.
But S.B. 585, the so-called “Gary Bill,” that features, among other things, a new port on Lake Michigan, is a tool the state should be considering more carefully as the viable alternative to the Illiana, he and Strong agreed.
“If we’re going to spend millions of dollars, why not spend it in the north end of the county where it’s needed and get the package going?” Niemeyer said, “We all made our livings up their in the north, so traveling there isn’t an issue for us.”
Strong added that it shouldn’t fall to the state -- and especially Lake County -- to bail out Illinois.
“They say the toll road is going to promote development, but when you go shopping, do you use the toll road?” Strong said. “There would be some development, sure, but not enough to make an impact.”
Neil Hyatte, a Hebron resident who also owns land in Wilmington, Ill., not far from the Illinois section of the proposed road, said he thinks the road is being built so trucks hauling ship containers have more routes to drive.
“I had heard awhile back that a container port was going to be built in LaPorte, so all the intersections along 149 were widened,” Hyatte said. “You now can’t drive down Wilmington-Peotone Road without seeing at least 30 container trucks.”