When the Federal Highway Administration rescinded its funding of the Prairie Parkway at the end of August, longtime opponents of the project declared it dead. But transportation officials revealed Tuesday they don't necessarily agree.
The parkway was a favored project of former Congressman Dennis Hastert, who pushed millions of dollars in federal grants to fuel the project. It was later revealed Hastert was a partner with other land speculators who earned about $3 million buying and selling property related to the proposed parkway. The project drew criticism both before and after that revelation for the Hastert benefit and environmental impacts.
The parkway would connect Interstate 88 near Elburn with Interstate 80 near Minooka. Kane, Kendall and Grundy counties all would have been affected by the project. Indeed, the parkway still exists in the long-term plans of those counties. And Kane County officials said there is neither a push nor a reason to remove it.
Tom Rickert, deputy director of the Kane County Division of Transportation, told county board members Tuesday the only thing the FHA decision means is there are no federal dollars for the parkway right now.
"It doesn't mean that the Prairie Parkway can't proceed in the future," Rickert said.
In an interview after his comments, Rickert explained the money for the Prairie Parkway was diverted for the widening of Route 47 south of Yorkville.
"People should remember the Route 47 widening is part of the Prairie Parkway," Rickert said. "It wasn't like they took the monies and gave it to a different project."
Rickert said he's seen dozens of projects fall out of favor for a while, only to resurrect later. He pointed to the Route 53 extension through Lake County as a prime example.
"That went away, and I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen," Rickert said. "Now it's back. So you never know."
Rickert said future progress on the parkway is really up to the Illinois Department of Transportation and the FHA. IDOT officials would not directly declare the parkway dead when asked about the project on Tuesday.
Asked in an email interview whether IDOT has ongoing plans for the parkway, IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said the parkway hasn't been part of the agency's multi-year plan for several years.
"We are no longer actively planning," he wrote.
Asked if there is any scenario -- should federal funds become available -- for the parkway to return to IDOT's priority plans, Tridgell sidestepped the topic.
"Our focus is on improving and expanding Illinois 47 as means to accommodate north-south travel through the region," he wrote.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke contributed to this story.
Plan: Kane County official says it's up to IDOT to get move project forward