Transportation summit in Elgin recaps Illinois projects, funding
By Mike Danahey email@example.com August 7, 2012 4:30PM
Illinois State Rep. Kieth Farnham (left) an Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain were amongst the guests Tuesday at the Transportation for Illinois Coalition at Elgin Community College. August 7, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 9, 2012 6:11AM
ELGIN — A lunchtime meeting at Elgin Community College Tuesday broke no new ground but highlighted what’s been going on in improvements to transportation in Illinois.
The session was the first of three put together by the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, an umbrella organization of labor, business and construction groups lobbying at the state and local level. The Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce hosted Tuesday’s gathering, which was attended by about 100 people.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, discussed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. Known as MAP-21, it funds surface transportation programs at more than $105 billion for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 and is the first long-term federal highway measure enacted since 2005.
According to reports, Illinois is getting $1.376 billion for road projects in fiscal 2013 and $1.388 billion in fiscal 2014.
Hultgren said he was disappointed Congress couldn’t agree to a five-year bill, but MAP-21 provides about 80 percent of what was being proposed in a bill under consideration and is a good start.
Hultgren noted that government investing in infrastructure is taken as a good sign by the business community. And the process of putting MAP-21 together showed that Congress can work together, particularly in terms of transportation, which Hultgren sees as a nonpartisan issue.
“It’s our roads. It’s Illinois’ roads. It’s the country’s roads,” he said.
Still, with the act only covering 27 months, Hultgren urged those in the room to push for politicians to begin planning for funding transportation projects beyond that.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider noted that a map of projects under way across the state using MAP-21 funding is available on the IDOT website. Of the state’s $31 billion capital bill being spent now, she said, $10.7 billion is being used on roads and bridges, and $3 billion on trains and rails, including extending and improving service from Chicago to Rockford and Dubuque.
Schneider expressed concern with an uptick this year in fatalities on Illinois roads, where the number already is approaching 600. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, there were fewer than 1,000 traffic deaths on state roads, the lowest totals since the 1920s, Schneider said.
She speculated part of that success might be due to seat belt use compliance, which now stands at 93.6 percent.
Kristi Lafleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway Authority, noted that use is higher than expected since toll rates were raised an average 88 percent in 2012, with total traffic down just 2 percent and truck traffic actually up 5 percent.
The tollway authority spent about $476 million the first half of 2012 and will be spending about $1 billion each of the next 10 years on improvements to its roads, Lafleur said.
Close to Elgin, that includes an extensive remodel of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, the 77-mile stretch of Interstate 90 that goes from near O’Hare International Airport to north of Rockford near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, and which sees about 200,000 daily trips, according to Lafleur.
The work will cover 70 of those miles and includes widening 62 miles of the highway.
About $250 million will be spent on having shoulders that can be used as bus lanes, and the authority is working with Pace to determine where to put bus depots.
The roadway will be equipped with sensors that will transmit traffic information to cars with the right technology. Sensors also will feed information back to authority offices for such things as determining when more plowing or salt is needed on the route. They also will provide information for electronic signs along the Addams, giving traffic updates to motorists and will provide work zone information as well.
Work near Elgin on the four-year, $2 billion project is expected to begin sometime in 2013 and continue through 2014.