Transportation Committee Approves Illiana; Gary Abstains

3 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The Transportation Committee of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission voted 18-8 this morning to add the Illiana toll road project to the 2040 comprehensive plan.  The controversial vote moves the issue forward to the full NIRPC Committee where the fate is uncertain.  The major surprise was the abstention by Gary.  Opponents of the plan had hoped that Gary would vote against the project because it will adversely affect Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s plan to make Gary a transportation hub.

The meeting was strongly attended by union members who support the construction jobs the project will bring. Proponents have argued that the project would bring thousands of jobs to the region.  Residents of the affected region voiced their opposition to the plan via comments online.  Dan Blankenship, a vocal opponent of the plan who lives in Lowell commented:

Nov 19, 2013

I oppose the Illiana for reasons shown in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan from NIRPC that states we need to upkeep roads and highways and infrastructure in the northern part of Lake County and keep intact our farmlands, our wetlands and our wooded areas. It would be a great move if NIRPC turned down this road to nowhere. It will not benefit Indiana in any way. There is no way there will be 16,000 jobs created. Crains’ Chicago Business magazine quoted that the actual belief is it will create only about 900 jobs and that would be over a 10-15 year period. The toll road is not needed, it is a fiasco and I hope all NIRPC members will vote against it. Thank you.  Dan Blankenship, Lowell

All of the comments received by NIRPC are published on their website and you can view them <a href="http://nirpc.org/illiana-expressway-project/public-comments.aspx"Here.

The proposal will now go to full Commission.  At full Commission any member may call for a “weighted vote.” Under the rules, a weighted vote will allow communities to vote based on population. This means that the northern county cities of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago would have a much larger say in whether the plan moves forward.

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2 Responses to “Transportation Committee Approves Illiana; Gary Abstains”

  1. Gina Sue December 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Not all comments received were published online. Mine from Nov 18th is one that has not been. I do not feel as if this could be an oversight because upon questioning (on Nov 25) if mine was received I was told that it had been. I was also told that the report was to be completed before Thanksgiving giving members time (Black Friday-Cyber Monday) to read all comments. I still have not heard back after I questioned where my comment is at for a second time.

    • Gina Sue December 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      I just heard back and was told that my comment is in the full report rather than the dated groups. Still the full report was updated some time on Monday leaving very little time for members to read comments. This is a shame because NIRPC has said that hearing from members of the community is a high priority in their process.

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