Rough road ahead for Illiana?
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 September 30, 2013 11:41PM
The Illiana Expressway would cost about $1.3 billion; the 47-mile toll road would connect I-55 in Illinois with I-65 in Indiana.
Updated: October 1, 2013 11:36AM
A report from an Illinois agency questions the need for the proposed Illiana Expressway.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning released a report last week casting doubts on the financial viability of the proposed 47-mile toll road linking Interstate 65 in southern Lake County to Interstates 55 and 57 in Illinois.
The planning agency report called the Illiana a “misplaced investment” of transportation improvement funds and it questioned Illiana’s impact on regional traffic congestion.
State transportation officials in Illinois and Indiana have said the tollway would be built through a public-private partnership and is estimated to cost $1.25 billion, with Illinois’ share about $950 million.
At the planning agency’s Oct. 9 board meeting, the group is scheduled to consider whether to endorse the Illiana.
Like the Chicago-area planning agency, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission also is evaluating the highway for inclusion in its long-term 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. Both agencies are federally designated metropolitan planning organizations and their approval is needed for the new highway to move forward. Illiana wasn’t listed as a priority in the agencies’ earlier plans.
On Monday, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Jim Pinkerton said INDOT officials are working with staff from the Northwestern Indiana planning commission “to make sure they have the information they need from the project team in Indiana to have the Illiana included in their 2040 Plan.”
NIRPC’s board, composed of mayors and other elected and appointed officials in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, is expected to hold hearings on the Illiana and vote on including it in its 2040 plan, possibly on Dec. 12. Mitch Barloga, NIRPC transportation planning manager, said four hearings will be held between Oct. 14 and Nov. 20, two in Lake County, one each in Porter and LaPorte counties. He said input will also be taken on INDOT’s proposal to widen Interstate 65 from four to six lanes, from U.S. 30 to Indiana 231.
While the Illiana highway has the support of both Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn, it hasn’t gained traction with the Chicago-area planning agency. Local environmentalists also oppose it.
Both governors again pledged their support again during a regional summit last week at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago.