State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, and Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, urged NIRPC officials to say "No" to the Illiana Tollway plan at a press conference Thursday. | Carrie Napoleon/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2013 9:39AM
CROWN POINT — State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, joined with Lake County Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, on Nov. 7 to ask the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission to say no to the proposed Illiana Expressway in south Lake County.
Niemeyer said, “There comes a time when you have to make a stand for what is right.” They had called a press conference in the hallway of the Lake County Government Center.
The two men were impassioned. They both urged NIRPC, the committee of local officials that makes decisions on federally-funded regional transportation projects, to vote no on the Illiana. They said they want any available federal money to work for Lake County, not Illinois, which they argue would be the beneficiary of the Illiana.
Both elected officials represent south Lake County. For them it is not a matter of “Not In My Back Yard,” but a matter of where federal funding can most effect the employment in all of Lake County.
Strong said that the development of a toll way linking Interstates 55 and 57 in Illinois an 65 in Indiana is not beneficial to Lake County.
“I believe this money would be better spent to repair and improve what we already have,” he said, adding, “Let’s fix what we have before we make new.”
His ideas were to concentrate the use of federal money on things like the expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, repair the bridges that have been closed or are close to being closed, to get more of those local jobs. Most of those expensive bridges are in north Lake County. Even though he represents the southernmost end of Lake County he is interested in revitalizing the lakeshore communities in the northern part of the county before putting money to, in his view, help out Illinois.
He wants NIRPC to assign its federal budget to help the communities along the lake. If things are being fixed there it will revitalize our lakeshore. “Let’s help those same communities lower their tax caps and reduce circuit breaker credits. Our entire region can benefit from this.”
Rep. Niemeyer said, “I’ve been representing the people in this area where it is going through since the beginning, first at the township then county and now state level. I cannot see the benefit for this area, for the state of Indiana or for Northwest Indiana.”
While Gov. Mike Pence is a fellow Republican, Niemeyer disagrees with him on the Illiana.
Niemeyer and Strong had gone to the NIRPC meeting held in Lowell last week to talk about the project. At the meeting, according to Niemeyer, there was no exchange of ideas with elected people. Those that attended the meeting were told to put their concerns on a card and then NIRPC picked out what items they wanted to talk about.