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Ind. Study to Determine

Sun March 11, 2007 - Midwest Edition
CEG



MUNSTER, Ind. (AP) A state official said an environmental study — not private developers — will determine the route for the Illiana Expressway.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has proposed seeking private developers to build the Indiana section of the highway that would run from I-94 near Michigan City south of Valparaiso and Gary to I-57 south of Chicago.

That has raised concern among critics that a developer might have the power to determine the route, including whose property is taken to make way for the new road, The Times of Munster reported Feb. 18.

“If indeed that is an important road, then I would be more comfortable with it being under the control of the state,” said Laura Blaney, a former Porter County councilwoman who lives in an area that could fall within the route.

The Indiana Department of Transportation hopes to contract with a private company to pay for the road’s construction in exchange for the right to collect tolls.

INDOT spokesman Gary Abell said the route would be determined by a state environmental study before any contracts with potential toll road developers are negotiated.

“Once the route is selected, that is the route,” Abell said.

The Indiana Senate approved legislation giving Daniels authority to seek private developers for the Illiana Expressway and the 75-mi. Indiana Commerce Connector, which would loop around part of Indianapolis.

Daniels has said the development could be done similarly to a 40 mi. stretch of Texas State Highway 130 that is being built as a toll road by a private consortium. Critics in Texas also have expressed concerns that the company might have some control over the final route, worries that officials there have tried to downplay.

Officials in Indiana and in Texas also have noted that regardless of who eventually develops the toll road, the state will retain title to the land on which it is built.