Friday, March 26, 2010

Illiana Expressway; a bumpy road


Speed bumps may impact Indiana's new Illiana Expressway law in the form of the communities most impacted by it.

Earlier this month, Lowell, IN councilmen opposed the project even before the ink on the legislation had dried. Lowell councilmen voted not to support the plan until more is known about the route the road will take.

Lowell is situated east and slightly south of Beecher.

Tuesday officials in Lowell drafted a letter to Gov. Mitch Daniels, state senators and representatives citing a need for additional information on the project. They noted lack of local input into its planning.

Michael Jordan, a Lowell-area developer, who opposes the Illiana Expressway, wants to see Lowell officials have an audience with legislators to express their concerns. Jordan believes that supporters, who refuse to pinpoint the exact route of the Illiana Expressway, are using a "divide and conquer" strategy.

He indicated the move is designed to divide landowners who oppose the road, segregating them from others who live along a different route. It would be easier to defeat three unconnected small groups than one large group with momentum on its side.

Jordan suggests the strategy may have come about after the northern route of the Illiana into Porter County was met with tremendous opposition. He explained that when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels saw how intense the opposition was, he dropped the plan.

"It was a single route," Jordan said.


Strategy is nothing new

A similar strategy has been used before, and by some of the same people.

In the early 1990's the proposal to build a new regional airport near Peotone was buried among five sites being eyed for development. Many believed that the Peotone site was always the favored location by decision-makers.

One of the most vocal supporters then and now for the proposed airport at Peotone is the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. At that time, Barbara Sloan was the SSMMA's transportation director. Today, she is behind the Illiana Feasibility Study, by Cambridge Systematics.

Possibly more dissention

In another Indiana town – Cedar Lake, east of Crete – there are also some concerns about a lack of input into the project's planning. Once solidly in favor of the project, Cedar Lake officials may be starting to have some doubts.  

Council members were recently put on the spot when a resident, Sharon Pacific of Hanover Township, polled them about their support for the road.

Pacific lives on 10 acres that one of the proposed routes could impact. Pacific not only has a stake in the plan, but she questions the merits of the road.

According to the Northwest Indiana Times, Cedar Lake Council President Dennis Wilkening indicated that the council's sentiments may have shifted.

The Illiana Feasibility Study identified three potential routes. One is north of Cedar Lake. Another is between Cedar Lake and Lowell. The connection in Illinois for both of those routes would be between Crete and Beecher. A third route is between Route 2 and the Kankakee River. In Illinois that translates to south of Beecher.

The Illiana has been billed as a reliever for truck traffic on the Borman Expressway or Interstate 80/94, but Lowell officials are among many who question whether truck drivers will travel an estimated 55 miles more and pay additional tolls to drive on it.