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IDOT asks for public's input to map future road projects

Flush with a roster of major transportation projects but not a lot of money to build them, the state is asking for the public’s help to map out priorities for future improvements, officials said Monday.

Meetings seeking input from residents and business owners in northeastern Illinois to shape the state’s transportation improvement program for fiscal 2014 through 2019, and to start creating a broader vision for the next 20 to 30 years, will be held Tuesday in St. Charles, Wednesday in Crystal Lake, Oct. 9 in Schaumburg, Oct. 10 in Romeoville and Oct. 16 in Chicago, officials said.

The agenda includes roads and highways, passenger and freight rail, aviation, shipping ports on Illinois rivers and the Great Lakes and for the first time, bicycling facilities, officials said.

“This will be a blueprint for us to build toward,’’ said Ann Schneider, secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The 2014-2019 state transportation plan will be unveiled next spring, officials said. Little or no growth in the budget is anticipated, for several reasons: The new federal transportation bill that Congress approved this year provides only two years of funding, at levels that are lower than many transportation advocates recommended; the federal Highway Trust Fund is headed toward possible bankruptcy as early as 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office; and no increases are expected in Illinois’ motor fuel tax or vehicle registration fees, officials said.

The budget for the 2013-2018 state transportation program totals about $9.2 billion, down from $11.5 billion for 2012-2017. The 2013-2018 plan focuses on repairs and maintenance of existing roads and bridges and it provides little new funding for congestion-relief or system expansion.

The next six-year program’s funding levels could drop further based on the pension obligations of IDOT over the next several years, as well as the outcome of state Medicaid reform efforts and the subsequent impact on IDOT's bond ratings, officials have warned. 

The condition of roads in Illinois, currently rated at 88 percent being in at least acceptable shape on average, is expected to deteriorate sharply, to 68 percent, according to IDOT.

Schneider said private-sector investment through the use of public-private partnerships is critical to advancing big-ticket projects, including the proposed Illiana Expressway that would extend from Interstate Highway 55 in Illinois to Interstate Highway 65Ö in Indiana, modernizing freight railroad infrastructure and expanding capacity on the Kennedy and Stevenson Expressways.

“One of the other big things that has changed is that IDOT is working more closely with the Illinois Tollway,’’ Schneider said. “We are collaborating with the toll authority on the Elgin-O’Hare western bypass highway and also looking at concepts using transit options and high-occupancy vehicle lanes on existing expressways to improve traffic flow. We could do the front end of projects and pass it off to the tollway for construction.’’

Each public meeting on future transportation programs will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. The schedule follows:

For Kane and DuPage Counties, Tuesday(10-2) at the Hilton Garden Inn, 4070 E. Main St., St. Charles.

For Lake and McHenry Counties, Wednesday(10-3) at the Crystal Lake Holiday Inn, 800 S. Route 31, Crystal Lake.

For Northern Cook County, Oct. 9 at IDOT District 1 headquarters, 201 W. Center Ct., Schaumburg.

For Will and Southern Cook Counties, Oct. 10 at the Romeoville Village Hall, 1050 W. Romeo Rd., Romeoville.

For Cook County, Oct. 16 in the basement auditorium of the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

jhilkevitch@tribune.com

Twitter @jhilkevitch

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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