Residents and concerned citizens alike attended the second of four remaining open houses hosted by the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission on the Illiana Expressway at Lowell Middle School Tuesday night.
Mitch Bargola, (above photo) Transportation Planning Manager for NIRPC says its important that the planning commission continue to receive public comments concerning the Illiana Expressway, the proposed 47-mile corridor that joins Interstate 55 in Illinois to the west with I-65 near Lowell in the east. Bargola says that this is a very "impact full project that most likely is the largest infrastructure project this region has seen since the interstate highway system." He adds, "so it's going to be a lightning rod of discussion and we hope that people can lend their voices to it and that's why we are holding these meetings."
(Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission booklet of their 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan, Illiana B3 route map and other materials given out at the open house in Lowell, on Tuesday, November 5, 2013)
Bargola says the public comment period which started October 14th runs during the remaining open houses (Michigan City, November 13th and Portage, November 19th) after which next month NIRPC will vote on deciding to include the Illiana in it's 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan for Northwest Indiana.
He says from the commission's perspective and the planning perspective the open houses will be, "our end of the road for us." On December 12th of this year, NIRPC will vote to amend their 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan that was adopted in June of 2011, to possibly include the Illiana Expressway if approved by the commission, as well as widening I-65 between US-30 and US-231.
Hundreds of people attended Tuesday's open house which was held from 6p.m. - 8p.m. which Bargola attributed to the proposed Illiana corridor going through the Lowell area.
Those attending included supporters of the coalition group, "No Illiana for US" and concerned area residents like Sandy Linden (photo above) who said, "There are thousands of people who have voiced their opinion...we have thousands of (signed) petitions" against the expressway.
Linden said, "People supporting this Illiana keep talking about the NIMBYS (acronym for Not In My Backyard) like they're wrong. There's hundreds of NIMBYS in my backyard that don't want it of course, but there's thousands of taxpayers who are going to be paying for this road. Doesn't matter whether you live in Lake County, if you live right along the road, if you live in Porter County, La Porte, Indianapolis you're going to be paying for this road."
Coalition members on both sides of the border say taxpayers could unknowingly contributing to the project because of Illinois' decision to use a public-private partnership to pay for the project. That because the project could overrun costs by millions of dollars and according to a Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) report, could require a public subsidy of between $440-million to $1.1-billion.
(photos: courtesy of Jay Stevens/Radio One Communications)