Porter County’s road to financial recovery may be through the road itself.
That’s the feeling of County Commissioner President John Evans, R-North, who
went off the agenda at Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting to sound the
charge for his fellow officials to get behind an effort to extend
Willowcreek Road in Portage south to U.S. 30 and beyond.
“The Commissioners view this as a game changing project for Porter County,”
Evans said, citing the potential to bring more economic growth with the
expansion in accordance with the vision of the County Jobs Cabinet.
Evans has long been a proponent for a north-south roadway that spans the
length of the county. He mentioned Tuesday that the concept of extending
Willowcreek Road had been adopted in the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning
Commission’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan adopted in 2011.
While the county has many highways that cut through east-west such as U.S.
30, U.S. 12, U.S. 20, Ind. 2 and Ind. 8, as well as Interstate 94 and the
Toll Road, Evans said Ind. 49 is the only roadway that runs north-south
traversing the county, but serves only the east half. Despite population
changes and employment demographics, the current network of roads has
remained unchanged for many years, he added.
“One of the obvious potential benefits for an extension of Willowcreek Road
is the enhancement of our transportation network for the west side of the
county,” Evans said.
Willocreek Road’s southern most point is where it tees at CR 700W, four and
a half miles north of U.S. 30. Evans said he would like the road broadened
to four lanes and connect it with Ind. 2 which runs south of Valparaiso and
eventually past Hebron.
It is the Commissioners’ belief, Evans said, that “thoughtful planning would
enhance development and redevelopment in strategic areas” which then would
spur economic growth and broaden the County’s tax base.
Evans also called for a feasibility study of improvements to CR 100S in
Porter Twp. which in the past has had improvement plans that “created
controversy among the residents.” The study will address “various functional
and safety deficiencies that plague” the roadway, he said.
“Our aim is not to construct a ‘super highway’ through the south part of the
county, but to address known safety issues and maintain a passable road to
serve the south county residents,” Evans said.
Evans along with fellow Commissioners Nancy Adams, R-Center, and Laura
Blaney, D-South, voted unanimously in approval to begin soliciting proposals
from professional groups.
For the Willowcreek Road expansion, Evans gave no timeline for the project
and estimated the overall cost would be at least $60 million but the effort
will involve a plethora of funding sources from many state and federal
He also said he anticipates federal funding to be used in initial and future
phases of the feasibility study and therefore the County will be using the
procedures recommended by the Indiana Department of Transportation for the
selection of a consultant of work.
Evans said it is the Commissioners’ goal to also seek public input
throughout the process. Progress of the project will be regularly discussed
at Commissioner meetings, he said.
There have been no documents or plans that have been preconceived for the
Willowcreek Road extension and the initial work will be to examine the
feasibility of both projects, Evans said.
“If executed correctly, and with public input, this project meets the Jobs
Cabinet’s mission of truly being a game changing event,” said Evans.
With the County Council in “dire need of money” as revenue continues to
dwindle and operational costs are on the rise, Evans said economic impact
from these corridors will grow assessed values.
“(The Council) can cut, cut, cut or grow our assessed valuation. This is the
only project I know that can do both,” Evans said.