The preliminary preferred alternative route for the proposed Illiana Expressway would start at Interstate 65 before heading west between Cedar Lake and Lowell and ending at I-55 near Wilmington, Ill.
The route — along with three others — will be presented for comment at two public meetings: 5 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Crown Point High School and Feb. 23 in Matteson, Ill. Officials from the Indiana and Illinois Departments of Transportation will be on hand to answer questions.
INDOT LaPorte District Chief of Staff Angie Feragas said the preferred route emerged as planners looked for the route with the least amount of impact on the environment, homeowners, and utilities.
It will be presented at a public hearing set for May, according to INDOT spokesman Jim Pinkerton.
But Feragas stressed that “no decision has been made” on the final route. That will likely occur at the end of 2012, with officials honing in on exactly where the road goes in 2013 — since the preliminary route lines represent a road that would be far too wide.
By the end of 2013, potential investors in the expressway — which will likely be a toll road — will start being identified. Construction would start in 2015.
Officials have been researching the pros and cons of various routes between U.S. 30 and the Lake/Newton county line.
The proposed B3 route received the largest amount of public support at meetings so far, and officials say that it will likely cost the least to construct, in part because it requires fewer miles of utility relocation and affects far fewer property owners than a more northern route.
The B3 route does have some limitations, such as low potential toll revenue.
Feragas said the public meetings have generated some concern from Lowell residents about how the B3 route could cut them off from routes to the north.
She said if the B3 route is chosen, planners will work with Lowell residents to make sure that most surface roads connect underneath the expressway.
Other routes are still in contention, but they each have their drawbacks.
The A route alternatives — some of which start as far north as Merrillville — impact more homeowners, offer less opportunity for future expansion, and impact more utilities. One advantage would be high toll revenue.
The C route alternative is located in the Kankakee River flood plain and it would be a longer trip from I-65 to I-55 due to the design of I-55 in that area. Also, there’s a nuclear plant on the Illinois side that the road would have to avoid.