Thinking outside the box earned 51 local governments and agencies a collective $286 million in federal cash for projects that reduce pollution and ease gridlock in the city and suburbs.
Winning ideas included: $23.3 million for a grade separation at the Union Pacific Railway tracks and Touhy Avenue in Des Plaines; $10.6 million for a controversial interchange intended to move traffic quickly at Randall Road and Route 62 in Lake in the Hills; and $935,920 to expand Pace's Bus on Shoulder service along I-55.
Another significant award is $34 million to DuPage County toward the extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway to O'Hare International Airport. Although the Illinois tollway is paying the lion's share of the construction, local communities benefiting from the project are being required to pitch in $300 million.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning received numerous applications for the funding and prioritized based on which projects best modernize the transportation system, use new technology, involve transit, and link different ways of commuting, such as a bus terminal at Union Station, officials said.
The projects will "improve highway corridors, create new bicycle paths, develop new transit service and enhance overall connectivity while improving air quality," CMAP Chairman Gerald Bennett said in a statement.
Other projects involve:
• $11.5 million to Cook County for intersection improvements at Elmhurst Road and Touhy Avenue;
• $4 million to Metra to re-power locomotives on the BNSF Line;
• $2.9 million to the Illinois Department of Transportation to improve the Cumberland Circle intersection at Golf and Wolf roads;
• $2 million to the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for the West Branch Regional Trail, from Winfield Mounds to West DuPage Woods;
• Numerous grants to Lake County and Naperville to interconnect traffic signals so vehicles move smoothly.
The "continuous-flow" intersection in Lake in Hills has generated opposition from Randall Road retailers, who fear it could hurt business.
The awards, part of the federal government's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program (CMAQ), will be distributed over the next four years.