CROWN POINT — Hundreds of people attended a Wednesday community meeting designed to inform residents of the preferred route for the proposed Illiana Expressway, but for many the session left them with more questions than answers.
More than 400 people packed the Crown Point High School cafeteria to see how the proposed route would affect them, huddling around tables with large maps of the study area.
Planners laid out the preferred preliminary option — which would start on Interstate 65 between Indiana 2 and U.S. 231, then head west between Lake Dalecarlia and Lowell before ending at Interstate 55 near Wilmington, Ill. Indiana Department of Transportation LaPorte District Chief of Staff Angie Fegaras said the “B3” route will hug a high-tension power line corridor which stretches west — between 153rd and 169th Avenues in Lake County — for about 35 miles into Illinois.
Residents of unincorporated Lowell were critical of how the road will impact property values, farmland and access routes for emergency vehicles and school buses. Officials said it was too early in the process to answer many questions, which frustrated some attendees.
Robert Bank and his wife, Ann, reside in Eagle Creek Township, and they are skeptical of the potential road’s impact on their community.
“I’m afraid it’s going to take property near us,” said Robert Bank, who lives about a mile north of the power lines. “I don’t want to listen to stupid truck drivers and their brake noise.”
Bank said he believes most of the benefit for the road lies on the Illinois side, since the preferred route heads near the proposed Peotone Airport property.
Ann Bank is concerned about whether the level of traffic will ever help recoup costs for constructing the proposed toll road.
“If drivers don’t use it, are we going to wind up paying for it?” she said.
The current preferred route was chosen due to the least amount of impact on the environment, homeowners and utilities, but planners stressed that a final decision hasn’t been made on the final route. If the road is built, it will likely be 250 to 400 feet wide; maps currently take into account a 2,000 feet wide swath, which could move north or south. A draft environmental impact statement focusing on the “B3” and the no-build options is the next step in the process. A public hearing on the impact statement will occur in May or June.
Cedar Lake Town Councilman Ralph Miller said he attended the session to see if the plan is in the best interest of his constituents.
“What I’ve heard so far (from residents) has been good,” Miller said. “They would especially be happy with an exit onto U.S. 41, which would help out businesses.”