Which regional roads offer the least pleasant drives? New site helps you find out

And the winner of the region's worst ride quality on major roads goes to — Cook County.

That's just one of the facts available on the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's website as of today. The agency is debuting a number of interactive maps and graphics that show transportation data in a new light and with a regional perspective.

CMAP planners say it's time to “get people excited about data.” The hope is CMAP's constituents — Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties — will use the facts to understand why certain projects deserve prioritization and funding. To access the data, go to

“We like to set the bar high instead of thinking it's too much information for people to absorb,” CMAP Communications Director Tom Garritano.

To that end, a section on ride quality includes detailed maps measuring pavement conditions on both expressways and major roads. A snapshot of counties' ride quality on major roads puts Cook County with a 47 percent rating compared to 72 percent in DuPage, 80 percent in Kane and 83 percent in Lake and 90 percent in McHenry.

Other data available includes stats on bridges in need of repair, pavement quality, the number of passengers boarding at Metra and CTA stops and the worst railway crossings for delays in the region — FYI, it's on Chicago's South Side at Morgan Street and Pershing Road with 3,194 vehicles delayed a day.

Taken cumulatively, the website sends a message that the region's infrastructure needs more capital to avoid gridlock, stagnant transit and deteriorating roads. The warning is timely, with a new governor in Springfield and a push for state and federal multiyear capital programs.

“Given our revenue constraints with the motor fuel tax decline, it will be hard to meet our goals on anything without additional money,” principal planner Jesse Elam said.

There are some limitations to the data. For example, the map of bridges needing repairs doesn't show exact locations. But CMAP officials said they'll continue to calibrate the visuals and welcome comments from the public on the website at

The move to put more planning data online has been in the works for some time, but it comes after a controversial decision this fall by a board that oversees CMAP to support the controversial Illiana Expressway. CMAP administration opposed the expressway, arguing it was financially risky.

Political heavy-hitters, including former Gov. Pat Quinn, backed the project.

CMAP leaders think giving the public more access to the facts will help when it comes to planning decisions.

“An informed public is a good public and helps make the case for these investments,” Garritano said.

  New CMAP data makes the case for more investment in roads and transit to avoid gridlock. JOE LEWNARD/, April 2011
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