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Fox Valley road, bridge, rail projects in jeopardy

GideBlusteIllinois Chamber Commerce speaks press conference AurorTransportatiCenter AurorTuesday. Leaders from communities throughout Fox Valley joined urge Congress vote against 34

Gideon Blustein, of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, speaks at a press conference at the Aurora Transportation Center in Aurora on Tuesday. Leaders from communities throughout the Fox Valley joined to urge Congress to vote against a 34 percent cut in tra

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Updated: November 16, 2011 2:00AM

Six years ago, when Congress authorized the $287 billion federal transportation bill, it included $6 billion for nearly 400 Illinois projects.

Some of those projects have been done, but many of them have not, and the money from that bill for the pending projects is back on the table.

As Congress considers reauthorizing the transportation bill in some form, a group of Fox Valley, regional and statewide officials gathered Tuesday morning to urge Congress to take a wide, bipartisan view toward new legislation.

Funding is in jeopardy, the local officials said, for bridges over the Fox River in Dundee Township and in Batavia and other areas of the Fox Valley, for expansion of Eola Road in Aurora and Eldamain Road in Kendall County, for the Oswego Metra station and for bike trails in Aurora.

Under the auspices of a nationwide transportation cooperative, Transportation for America, officials held a press conference at the Aurora Transportation Center to say the money still is needed, at the very least at the same level as it was six years ago.

“We’re trying to get the word out to our federal representatives that we are dependent on their support of a large reauthorization of the Federal Transportation Act,” Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said.

Officials are particularly targeting U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren, who represents the Fox Valley, as well as Illinois Reps. Jerry Costello, Tim Johnson and Dan Lipinski, because they sit on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Many of the local mayors at Tuesday’s press conference are in Hultgren’s district, including Schielke, Kevin Burns of Geneva, Gary Golinski of Yorkville, Brian LeClercq of Oswego, Dale Berman of North Aurora and Marilyn Michelini of Montgomery.

Also attending were representatives of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, Illinois Public Interest Research Group, Active Transportation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Metropolitan Planning Council.

Peter Skosey of the Metropolitan Planning Council said local and statewide officials are afraid of a bill proposed by U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who at the moment is proposing legislation cutting federal transportation funding by 34 percent.

For Illinois, that would mean the end of 6,800 transit jobs and 17,000 highway jobs, Skosey said.

He said officials support a bipartisan bill being worked on by the Senate that would reauthorize current federal transportation funding for at least two years.

For the Kane and Kendall counties area, federal funding is tied to a number of pending projects. In Kane, the project list includes three Fox River bridges: at Bolz Road-Longmeadow Parkway between Carpentersville and Algonquin, Red Gate Road in St. Charles, and First and Webster streets in downtown Batavia; the Anderson Road corridor and bridge in Elburn; the Eola Road corridor and New York Street in Aurora.

Both Kane and Kendall counties have substantial projects proposed for widening Route 47, which Schielke described as “a desperate need.”

Kendall County also has federal funding tied into the Prairie Parkway, the Metra commuter rail extension into Oswego and the bridge over the Fox River and corridor for Eldamain Road.

Gideon Blustein of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said the state’s business community needs “certainty.”

“The only certainty we get from a 34 percent cut is that we will lose jobs,” he said.

Dan Persky of the Active Transportation Alliance pointed out that a loss of federal funding almost certainly will kill a proposal to connect bike trails that will provide a link from Aurora all the way to Wisconsin.

Just a few weeks ago, Hultgren met with local officials and pledged his support for the Metra extension into Oswego. But Michelini said both the Oswego extension and an eventual station in Montgomery “will be threatened if this is cut.”

Hultgren has not publicly said what form of transportation bill he would support, although he recently met with local officials and pledged to work for the Metra extension into Kendall County.

His office did not return a phone call for comment Tuesday.

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