Tag Archives: transportation hub

NIRPC Passes Illiana, Lowell Residents Outraged, Union Members Cheer

12 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In perhaps one of the most contentious public meetings of the year, a room full of people who face losing their farms and family homes squared off with union members looking for temporary jobs.  Union members cheered as NIRPC voted to approve the Illiana Toll Road while farmers cried.  Perhaps the best comment was from a Lowell resident who said “move the road closer to Cedar Lake and Crown Point since they want it so bad.”  That comment clearly points out the irony of communities who have nothing to lose weighing in on the fate of people’s homes in rural south county Indiana.

Christine Cid stood up to the machine once again and voted against the Illiana.  You will recall that Cid was the lone democrat on the County Council standing against the income tax.  This time Cid was joined by County Chair Thomas McDermott.  McDermott, acting as Mayor of Hammond, clearly stated that communities along the 80/94 corridor may be harmed by the southern corridor.  Thus, the question as to why Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson decided to support the controversial plan.  Freeman-Wilson would appear to have the most to lose with the construction of the tollway as she has pinned Gary’s revitalization hopes to the plan to be a transportation hub.  The Illiana Toll Road is expected to be a catalyst for the proposed Peotone Airport as well as a truck route to avoid congestion.  The primary economic growth Gary has seen in recent years has been along the 80/94 corridor.  In the event the Illiana is successful in removing even 20% of the truck traffic from the area, that could be a large loss in jobs and tax revenue for Gary.

The real story here is Governor Mike Pence.  Pence chimed in today praising the Board for passing the plan.  Pence would do well to remember his base if he plans to run for re-election.  It seems that he was outmaneuvered politically during this entire process.  Maybe we will see a Governor McDermott after all.

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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.