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Forum: Stand up to Wal-Mart

Updated: November 18, 2013 7:59AM



So, the SouthtownStar supports tax breaks for Wal-Mart in Tinley Park because, quote, “that’s the development game these days.” That’s because people and organizations like the SouthtownStar are willing to cave during a hostage situation.

We are in a death spiral of hugely profitable mega-corporations demanding less taxes and lower wages to the point where people will not even be able to afford the goods they produce.

As the Summit Hill School District 161 board voted, it’s time to just say no. We need a federal tax on hugely profitable corporations that are paying the minimum wage and little to no benefits.

If they don’t want to pay a living wage here in their country, they can move all their stores to China, too.

Bill Preston

Crete

Freight centers’ growth makes proposed tollway necessary

We write to strongly encourage the members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee to vote today in support of the inclusion of the Illiana Expressway in the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) Go to 2040 regional transportation plan.

The Chicago metropolitan area as a whole benefits economically from its geographic location and existing transportation infrastructure. The Illiana Expressway is a necessary investment to enhance this benefit and to provide relief to the communities that currently bear the brunt of freight traffic in the region.

Over the last decade, the private sector has worked successfully alongside local government to develop significant infrastructure in Will County for train and truck freight operations. People in the Chicago area pay less for the products they buy and the items they ship because of Will County’s role as a regional intermodal hub.

However, South Cook and Will counties pay the price of increased traffic congestion due to their geographical location and must repair their roads and bridges more frequently than other parts of the region because of the higher level of truck traffic.

That impact can be seen most clearly on interstates 55 and 80 and Illinois 53. The Illiana Expressway would relieve the pressure on these existing roads.

We understand that the funds available for large infrastructure projects are constrained. The public-private partnership proposed for the Illiana Expressway is a financing option that will reduce the investment required by the state and serve as a gatekeeper to ensure the project’s economic viability.

Negotiated properly, the partnership would reduce taxpayer risk while providing greater assurance of economic viability. Given the challenges faced by the federal Highway Trust Fund, the proposed financing arrangement for the Illiana Expressway will help lead the way toward what may be the best option for the state to leverage existing resources.

It is important to note that the Illiana Expressway is not a speculative gamble on future growth but an investment that will help manage economic growth that has already occurred.

We respectfully request that the members of the policy committee give full consideration to this project with the understanding that the freight economy in South Cook and Will counties provides benefits to all.

We also recognize that all of the projects in the Go to 2040 plan are important. The improvements to Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line and the I-90 managed lanes are valued enhancements to the communities they will serve.

We ask for the same consideration for the Illiana Expressway in the spirit of cooperation and collective will needed for regional planning.

U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, 2nd District

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, 11th District

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, 16th District

Illiana Expressway to have little benefit for Southland

In the current debate about the proposed Illiana Expressway, supporters have been exaggerating its benefits for the Southland.

I chair the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which voted 10-4 last week to oppose the project because it lacks regional benefits for reducing traffic congestion and creating jobs.

As a lifelong resident of the Southland and mayor of Palos Hills for the past quarter century, I ardently support investment in this neglected part of the Chicago area.

But the Illiana Expressway proponents’ own numbers show that the proposed tollway would not create sustainable jobs in the Southland and would actually drain jobs away into Indiana.

Worse still, it would leave taxpayers across Illinois liable for up to $1.1 billion in unmet costs, depending on the outcome of the Illinois Department of Transportation’s proposed public-private partnership to fund the project.

Even if private investors ante up, the project would seriously erode the mere $10.5 billion available over the next three decades for all major capital projects in the Chicago area.

That means fewer improvements to existing transportation infrastructure, so commuters across the seven counties — including, yes, those in South Cook and Will counties — will be stuck in traffic while paying to build an expressway that bypasses the region. It is, simply put, a bad idea.

Politics must not drive important transportation investments. Instead, our region must carefully prioritize roads and mass transit to maximize benefits from scarce public dollars.

The politicization of this Illiana Expressway planning process has pitted county against county and suburb against city. It is fraying the hard-earned coalition for efficient government built by my colleagues on the CMAP board and the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee with help from stakeholders across the Chicago area.

Whatever the outcome regarding the future of this highway, we must all work to rebuild that coalition so that future proposals to amend CMAP’s Go to 2040 regional transportation plan can be judged on their merits.

Gerald Bennett is mayor of Palos Hills and chairman of the board of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.



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