Illiana Expressway approved by northwest Indiana planning board; Tollway would connect Interstate 65 near Lowell with Interstate 55 south of Chicago

Approval is given to build the proposed Illiana Expressway as a northwest Indiana planning board voted Thursday in favor of building the 47-mile long stretch of tollway connecting I-55 south of Chicago to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana.
December 12, 2013 3:20:05 PM PST
Approval is given to build the proposed Illiana Expressway as a northwest Indiana planning board voted Thursday in favor of building the 47-mile long stretch of tollway connecting I-55 south of Chicago to I-65 near Lowell, Indiana.

The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission votes to build the Illiana Expressway were watched closely by union members. They envision the construction site hosting as many as 2,000 jobs.

"All the various skilled craftsmen that have built our infrastructure in the past and will be part of this project as well," said David Fagan, Operating Engineers Union.

The Illiana would be a 47-mile long, multi-lane east-west highway extending from I-55 in Will County Illinois to I-65 in Lake County, Indiana.

In October, Illinois planners approved their end of the project.

Indiana supporters say the Illiana would reduce heavy truck traffic along Interstate 80/94 farther north in Lake County.

"The truckers that come through on I-94 and up I-65, they spend a tremendous amount of revenue within the city," said Roosevelt Allen Jr., Lake County Board President.

President Allen was joined by other Northern Lake County officials who opposed Illiana, asking for more time to consider the project.

"We're taking people's homes," said Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott. "We're changing the landscape of south Lake County."

But the mayor of Gary, the largest city in Northern Lake County defected and voted for the new expressway.

"There's an opportunity for more development along 80/94 if there's less congestion particularly if there's fewer truck traffic," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman said.

With planning commissions in both states having Ok'd the project, it's now up to officials in Washington to approve Illiana. If that happens, construction could begin as soon as 2015.