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updated: 10/24/2012 4:42 PM

Route approval sought for Illiana Expressway near Chicago

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Associated Press

LOWELL, Ind. -- Indiana and Illinois officials have asked federal agencies to approve a proposed route for a highway that would link Interstate 65 in northwestern Indiana and Interstate 55 in Illinois.

The Illiana Expressway route picked by the state highway agencies goes from I-65 just north of Lowell and west to I-55 near Wilmington, Ill., skirting the southern side of a proposed airport site near Peotone, Ill., The Times of Munster reported Wednesday.

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Officials from the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies could make a decision on the route as soon as the end of this year, after which a more detailed engineering and financing study would be enacted, said Jim Pinkerton, an Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman.

"People want things to move along so they can get to know what specific areas will be affected," Pinkerton said. "The more specific we can get, that will provide more clarity for the public."

The states also have included a required "no-build option" in their report, which outlines what would happen if the expressway was not built.

The proposed highway has been discussed for years as a way to relieve congestion on I-80/94 and other major routes into the Chicago area.

State officials picked the route over two others outlined by the agencies in July, including one that started further south of Lowell.

Many residents had protested the choosing of a route north of Lowell.

"We don't want this toll road because we don't see the benefit to Indiana or to our community in particular," Lowell Town Councilman Craig Earley said.

Don Carnahan, who lives near Lowell, said he believed officials seriously considered only the route that was picked.

"They are just keeping it as far north as they can," Carnahan said.

State highway officials have said property purchases could start next year, but that 2015 is the earliest construction could start. The state agencies estimate it will cost $1.25 billion to build.

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