Indiana governor announces study for new highway

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Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Indiana Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Transportation have signed an agreement to study potential locations for a new limited-access toll highway connecting Interstate 57 in Illinois to I-94 in Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Times reported.

The proposed highway, known as the Illiana Expressway, would be roughly 63 miles, with 50 in Indiana, and truck-only lanes would be evaluated to provide for efficient movement of freight, according to the Times. The metropolitan planning organization for Northwest Indiana says the new expressway would reduce truck traffic on U.S. 30 by 59 percent and on the Borman Expressway (I-80/94) by 22 percent, the newspaper reported.

The highway would be publicly owned but built with private funds and operated under contract as a toll road; state and federal approval will be needed before construction begins. The engineering firm selected for the project will perform an environmental impact analysis and identify a final highway alignment, according to the Times; the $5-$10 million bi-state study is expected to take three years.

The movement of freight will be a major consideration in the study, the newspaper reported; railyards in the Chicagoland area feed many trucks using the current highway system, and in Indiana, half of the traffic on the Borman — the state’s second-busiest highway — is trucks. At present, 28,800 trucks use the Borman each day, and studies show that number will increase by 50 percent in the next 20 years.

“The Illiana Expressway would stimulate jobs all along its route, and help both the economy and quality of life throughout Chicagoland by alleviating congestion,” Daniels said. “The possibilities for intermodal distribution alone are enormous.”