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Old December 10th, 2007, 05:41 PM   #1
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New Expressway In The Works.......


Study due this month on long-discussed Chicago-area bypass
Gridlock spurs Indiana study
Jon Hilkevitch | Getting Around
December 10, 2007

Urban planner Daniel Burnham anticipated the day when it would be possible for every Illinois resident to pile into all the state's cars and trucks and drive out of the Land of Lincoln.

But Burnham, who worried about future traffic congestion overburdening the roadway system in outlying areas, also foresaw the day when gridlock, if left unchecked, would make that movement of humanity impossible. So he came up with a plan.

By 1927 -- 15 years after Burnham's death -- the 15 millionth Model T rolled off the assembly line at Henry Ford's factory in Highland Park, Mich.

Fast-forward to 2007, when the Chicago region and northwest Indiana rank No. 2 in the U.S. for traffic congestion.

Later this month, a preliminary financial assessment from Indiana is due out on the feasibility of building a long-discussed Chicago-area bypass highway called the Illiana Expressway.

If the Illiana is built, motorists in the Chicago area have Burnham to thank.

The new highway is designed as the road of choice for cross-country drivers -- mostly in long-haul trucks -- that are not destined for the Chicago area, yet clog highways, including the Kingery and Borman Expressways and the Tri-State Tollway.

In Burnham's historic Plan of Chicago of 1909, he envisioned a series of outer ring roads around the city that would tie together the region's street grid and ease traffic knots.

"The primary purpose of ring roads, as Burnham had envisioned, is to take traffic that is going around Chicago and take it around rather than through the city," said Randy Blankenhorn, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, a partner in the Illiana project.

The Illiana, which has been included in transportation plans since the 1960s, is aimed at easing traffic on Interstate Highways 80/94 between Illinois and Indiana.

It also would provide much-needed relief to nearby communities in Will, south Cook and Kankakee Counties in Illinois as well as Lake County, Ind.

It is in those towns, such as on Dixie Highway in Beecher in Will County, where the main streets have become unofficial alternate routes used by drivers trying to escape the gridlock on I-80/94, which is the numerical designation for the Kingery in Illinois and the Borman in Indiana.

Indiana has taken the lead on advancing the Illiana bypass. It would extend from Interstate Highway 57 in eastern Will County in Illinois, possibly between Monee and Peotone, where Illinois officials are planning a major commercial airport, to Interstate Highway 65 in Indiana, possibly near the town of Lowell.

A routing has not been established, but potential interchange locations between I-57 and I-65 are at Illinois Highways 1 and 394 and U.S. Highway 41, officials said.

"We are awaiting a consultant's report this month to determine the feasibility of the Illiana -- basically looking at can the road be built using mostly undeveloped land, how much would it cost and how could it be paid for?" said Andy Dietrick, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

Determining potential corridors would come later, Dietrick said.

About 300,000 vehicles travel between Chicago and Indiana each day on I-80/94, the Indiana Toll Road and other roads, officials said.

As proposed a few years ago by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, the Illiana also would have connected with the Indiana Toll Road and I-94 in Michigan City, Ind.

Daniels was forced to scale back those plans this year in the face of public concerns about the amount of land acquisition involved, the cost to taxpayers and the impact on lifestyles from a new major road cutting through mostly rural Indiana communities.

But there is no shrinking from the fact that truck traffic, which is already choking the region's roads, is forecast to double in the next 15 to 20 years.

Intermodal transportation facilities, where much of the nation's cargo is transferred between semitrailer trucks and trains, are being built at a furious pace across the Midwest.

The village of Crete approved an 850-acre intermodal rail and industrial facility earlier this year. New intermodal facilities are also planned in Beecher and northwest Indiana.

"I-80 already has incredible amounts of truck traffic, and it will get worse," said Pete Harmet, the bureau chief of project programming in the Chicago area at the Illinois Department of Transportation, which is working with the Indiana agency.

"The Illiana will provide some relief, and Indiana is also looking at it in terms of creating economic development along the route," Harmet said.

As part of the feasibility study, Indiana officials are looking at whether the Illiana could be built with help from the private sector and operated as a toll road.

"If we are going to build it in a timely manner, it must be some sort of public-private partnership -- not traditional tax revenues," Blankenhorn said.

There are few other options to improve mobility through the Chicago-northwest Indiana region. A four-year project increasing vehicle capacity on the Kingery in Illinois was completed this year and Indiana is using available rights of way to expand the Borman and parts of I-65.

Officials are worried that if a corridor for the Illiana is not identified and protected soon, it might be too late, given the speed of residential and commercial development.

A couple of years ago, Indiana officials outlined a wide area where the Illiana could be built between I-57 and I-65, but it created so much panic among property owners in the affected towns that the state took down those planning maps, Dietrick said.

But, Blankenhorn said, "We need to get to a point sooner rather than later where we can protect the corridor. Otherwise, the Illiana is going to be so far south in both states that it wouldn't have any value."

Waiting too long is precisely what happened with plans among Illinois officials to extend Interstate Highway 355 to I-57.

The I-355 south extension from Interstate Highways 55 to 80 opened in November. But acquiring the land to bring it down farther south from I-80 to I-57 -- which the Illinois General Assembly directed the Illinois tollway to look at in 1993 -- would be cost prohibitive because of development in recent years in Will County, officials said.

Meanwhile, the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is considering forming an exploratory committee to help keep the momentum going on the Illiana project.

Tollway board member James Roolf, who proposed the exploratory committee, said studies should be done to see if it is possible to extend the Illiana farther west to I-55, and also connect it with the proposed Prairie Parkway, a north-south highway corridor in the far western portion of the Chicago region.

IDOT is moving ahead toward construction within two years of the Prairie Parkway, which would link Interstate Highways 88 and 80 in Kane and Kendall and Grundy Counties.

It's unclear how soon an integrated system of ring roads would be built, but the Prairie Parkway, Illiana Expressway and the other possible interconnections are now referred to in planning circles as the Daniel Burnham Outer Belt.
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Old December 10th, 2007, 07:21 PM   #2
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Daniel Burnham and sprawl

Daniel Burnham is turning over in his grave. It is wrong to suggest that Daniel Burnham would support these new outlying expressways.

Burnham likely would have been appalled by the sprawl-enablers of today. Burnham was keenly aware of the way that sound urban planning could enhance quality of life. He was aware of the need to reduce commuting times before we even had automobiles.

Building these outlying expressways, with their subsequent sprawl enhancement, cause more dependence on automobiles, more pollution, harmful economic effects, longer commuting times, less time with one's family, and less social interaction, with each worker stuck in his car on the expressway.

Burnham almost certainly would argue for better transit rather than more expressways. In the case of the proposed Illiana Expressway, if there indeed is a need to enhance truck passage through this area, then truck-only lanes on I-80 and I-94, perhaps with some widening of that roadway, should be considered. In conjuction with that approach, improved transit in the area can help commuters. The one thing that should NOT be built is another sprawl-causing outer ring expressway.
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Old December 10th, 2007, 07:53 PM   #3
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The Plan of Chicago, page 42:

The rapidly increasing use of the automobile promises to carry on the good work begun by the bicycle in the days of its popularity in promoting good roads and reviving the roadside inn as a place of rest and refreshment. With the perfection of this machine, and the extension of its use, out-of-door life is promoted, and the pleasures of suburban life are brought within the reach of multitudes of people who formerly were condemned to pass their entire time in the city.

Figure XL:

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Old December 10th, 2007, 09:26 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
The Plan of Chicago, page 42:

There's no escaping that old rascal, is there.

Who cares whether Daniel Burnham thought encircling highways and suburban sprawl were a good idea? We know now that, for reasons that would have been entirely inaccessible to him at the time, they are harmful.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 12:00 AM   #5
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Those plans are relatively old...they've been in the RTP for a while. I don't think we really need new highways, except maybe the Indiana border which is 24/7 congestion. Improving what we have makes more sense...how about HOT/HOV lanes? We are like the only major city without them.
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