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Illiana tollway tops discussion at CMAP open house

LindLloyd Christiansen Peotone talk CMAP project manager Drew Williams-Clark about their concerns for proposed Illiantollway project. Susan | DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times

Linda and Lloyd Christiansen of Peotone talk to CMAP project manager Drew Williams-Clark about their concerns for the proposed Illiana tollway project. Susan | DeMar Lafferty/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 26, 2014 6:22AM



The GO TO 2040 updated transportation plan is a comprehensive regional plan for all of metropolitan Chicago, but most of those attending Monday’s open house had one road on their mind: the proposed Illiana tollway in southern Will County.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) hosted one of its 12 public sessions at the New Lenox Village Hall, drawing folks from Beecher and Peotone, who hoped to sway the agency to drop the Illiana from its list of capital projects.

“I question the need for the Illiana tollway,” Linda Christiansen, of Peotone, told CMAP officials.

She and her husband, Lloyd Christiansen, lived in Frankfort for 40 years — “before suburbia caught up to us,” and they relocated to Peotone, where the proposed expressway could take some of their farmland and come close to their home.

“Peotone now is like Frankfort 40 years ago. So I question the value of the Illiana,” Linda Christiansen said. “I don’t want to be one of those ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ people. I want to have a vision for the area. This (Illiana) is a political issue to take congestion off (Interstate) 80. Why don’t we widen our existing highways to six lanes (like other states have done)?”

Gerry Bunte, a Beecher farmer, said she is concerned about financing the tollway.

“How much more tax burden can we dump on people?” she said.

The proposed Illiana tollway did have at least one supporter in the sparse crowd: Will County Board member Don Moran, D-Romeoville.

With more intermodal facilities being built in Will County, new projects like the Illiana and new and improved bridges over the Des Plaines River are “needed today,” he said.

“The economy is still slow, but once it picks up, there will be even more truck traffic. We need jobs. This (Illiana) will be great for our area,” Moran said.

The Illiana is one of five new capital projects, all listed as “fiscally constrained:”

Extension of the Chicago Transit Authority Red Line, from 95th to 130th streeets.

Construction of the Elgin O’Hare Western Access, which would widen the Elgin O’Hare Expressway and extend it east to the airport and add an expressway around the western side of the airport from Interstate 90 to Interstate 294.

Construction of a north-south route through Lake County, from Illinois 53 to Illinois 129.

Improvements and extensions to Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line.

The federal government requires that the transportation portion of the overall plan be updated every four years.

While its list of projects remains unchanged, CMAP has updated its population and revenue projections, both of which previously were overestimated, according to Drew Williams-Clark, project manager.

When it was adopted in 2010, census data from that year was not yet available. The initial GO TO 2040 plan estimated Will County’s population to be 726,238, but census data showed that it is 669,013. Population in the six-county metropolitan area was 547,400 less than estimated.

The plan devotes 97 percent of its resources to maintaining and modernizing the existing transportation system and the remaining 3 percent to new projects.

Alicia Hanlon, Will County’s senior transportation planner and CMAP representative, is concerned about having so little money for new roads.

“There are a lot of needs in this area,” she said.

To generate more revenue for road projects, Williams-Clark said CMAP is recommending four new sources:

Congestion pricing: the creation of an express toll lane (when new roads or new lanes are built) in which people would pay more to drive in a lane that moves faster.

Increasing and eventually replacing the motor fuel tax, which has been at 19 cents per gallon since 1991.

Replacing the Illinois Department of Transportation’s formula of splitting transportation dollars 55/45 between northeastern Illinois and the rest of the state, so that funds are allocated based on need or performance measures.

Variable parking prices, in which local governments could charge varying rates for parking based on demand.

The CMAP board is taking public comment until Aug. 1 online (www.cmap.illinois.gov) and will vote on the updated plan this fall.



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