$1.3 billion Illiana Expressway Approved by Planning Board

The proposed Illiana Expressway cleared a major hurdle Thursday when the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission in Indiana voted in favor of the plan.

The plan previously had been approved by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency, and it now can be submitted for federal approval. The Illiana would be a 47-mile toll road which would connect Interstate 55 near Wilmington to Interstate 65 near Lowell, Ind.

The Indiana commission approved the proposal by a weighted voted of 76-20. Each member’s vote was based on the population of the community the member represented.

Support and opposition for the plan has surfaced on both sides of the state line, and Thursday’s vote sparked more debate.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Matteson, who represents all of Kankakee County and part of Will County in Congress, is among those voicing enthusiasm.

“Indiana and Illinois stand united in support of the Illiana,” she said. “We can now move forward with submitting building plans to the Federal Highway Administration for final approval. The expressway will help the entire region realize its true growth potential.”

Kelly joins other elected officials representing Kankakee County, including county board chairman Mike Bossert, in supporting the plan.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. failed in his attempt to delay Thursday’s vote, urging the commission to wait because the NIRPC committee in charge of implementing its 2040 plan had been unable to come to a decision for or against the Illiana Expressway.

“We are taking people’s homes with this,” McDermott said. “We are changing the landscape of south Lake County.”

Homeowners in the path of the proposed highway in Illinois have protested along similar lines.

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