Suburban transportation, education, population to change by 2020

 
 
Updated 1/4/2011 5:32 AM
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  • Joan Miller, right, tells fellow Sun City residents Lee Brown, Carol Greenawalt and Rosemary Bayton about her garden with was a part of Sun City's annual Sunflower Garden Club Garden Walk on Saturday, June 26. Miller and both units on either side of hers all have pergolas and lots of flowers in their gardens to make for a continuous looking garden they can all enjoy.

    Joan Miller, right, tells fellow Sun City residents Lee Brown, Carol Greenawalt and Rosemary Bayton about her garden with was a part of Sun City's annual Sunflower Garden Club Garden Walk on Saturday, June 26. Miller and both units on either side of hers all have pergolas and lots of flowers in their gardens to make for a continuous looking garden they can all enjoy. Daily Herald file

  • Adriana Galvez and Socorro Rodriguez perform some Flamenco dancing at the 5 year anniversary celebration of the Hispanic ministry at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Mount Prospect.

    Adriana Galvez and Socorro Rodriguez perform some Flamenco dancing at the 5 year anniversary celebration of the Hispanic ministry at St. Cecilia Catholic Church in Mount Prospect. Daily Herald file

  • Derek Tywan of Schaumburg walks to class to begin his freshman year on the first day of classes Monday at Harper College.

    Derek Tywan of Schaumburg walks to class to begin his freshman year on the first day of classes Monday at Harper College. Daily Herald file

  • As the price of college tuition goes up, schools like College of DuPage may see a rise in popularity.

    As the price of college tuition goes up, schools like College of DuPage may see a rise in popularity. Daily Herald file

  • The Elgin-O'Hare Expressway is one of the projects likely to come to fruition.

    The Elgin-O'Hare Expressway is one of the projects likely to come to fruition. Daily Herald file

  • What's on tap

    Graphic: What's on tap (click image to open)

From the introduction of lifestyle centers that changed the way we shop, to a plethora of downtown makeovers that altered how we live and an election that brought the power of the White House closer to home than ever before, the past decade has brought plenty of change to the suburbs. But change is constant, and urban planners, academics and community leaders see plenty of it ahead as we leave the first decade of the 21st century behind and sail toward 2020.

People

The population of the seven-county Chicago region, which includes Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, McHenry, Will and Kendall counties, is expected to increase about 10 percent, from 8.7 million to 9.6 million people, according to projections by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, or CMAP.

John Hudson, a professor of geography at Northwestern University, said the period of rapid growth seen in the suburbs between 1950 and 1980 has leveled off considerably -- a trend he doesn't expect to change.

The Midwest over the last 30 years has experienced minor growth compared to the rest of the country, and Chicago's population is increasing at a rate slower than the nation's only larger cities, New York and Los Angeles.

The exception will continue to be outer suburbia -- Will County and parts of Kane and McHenry counties -- with new growth being driven primarily by the immigrant Mexican population, Hudson said.

Most African-Americans moving to the suburbs will continue heading to communities south and southwest of Chicago, while Hispanic and Asian populations will gravitate toward the Northwest suburbs, according to Joe Schwieterman, a professor in DePaul University's School of Public Service.

Transportation

Determining what major roadwork to tackle is of course dependent on securing funding -- a tall order given the state's increasingly dire budget crisis.

But experts agree the two major projects with the best chances of moving forward this decade are the long-stalled Illinois Route 53 northern extension and the O'Hare International Airport western bypass.

In April, Lake County voters overwhelmingly supported a nonbinding referendum proposal asking whether the state should extend Route 53 north from Lake-Cook Road to Route 120. Some put the price tag at more than $1 billion.

In October, Gov. Pat Quinn created an advisory council to find the $3.6 billion needed to finish the eastern end of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway and build a western bypass around the airport.

The projects combined are expected to create development in industry, retail and hotels, along with more than 100,000 short- and long-term jobs.

CMAP supports both projects to relieve congestion and improve accessibility, but also cautions that the Route 53 extension should have a smaller footprint to protect the environment and preserve nearby communities' character.

Facing the longest odds, Schwieterman believes, is the STAR line, a commuter rail line linking the Northwest, West and Southwest suburbs.

"It just doesn't do enough things to give it the political backing it needs," he said.

CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn said he expects to see the suburbs become more transit-oriented, with additional bus routes improving connections to rail.

"We have to build a culture willing to use transit in the suburbs, to make transit a first option instead of a last choice," Blankenhorn said.

He also foresees a day when motorists pay to drive in express lanes, and use real-time technology to determine their quickest routes.

Gambling

It's difficult to predict whether lawmakers will approve massive gambling expansion proposals, which call for a land-based Chicago casino, four more riverboat casinos and thousands of slots at horse racing venues.

Existing casinos already experiencing declining revenue are against the measure, while proponents say expansion means thousands of new jobs, millions of dollars in tax revenue and survival for Arlington Park and other race tracks.

But the University of Illinois' John Kindt, a business and legal policy professor who's testified before the Illinois House on the topic, said it's only a matter of time before people realize a state can't gamble its way to prosperity.

Research shows gamblers spend 25 percent less on clothing, 10 percent less on food and put 37 percent less into savings than nongamblers, Kindt said. Gambling also increases government's social costs and raises crime, while detracting businesses from relocating, he said.

"For each slot machine you have, it takes in an average of $100,000 pure profit each year, which is then $100,000 siphoned out of the consumer economy," Kindt said. "It's lose-lose for everybody except the lobbyists and the industry. It hasn't worked and it will never work."

O'Hare modernization

The O'Hare Modernization Program, which includes a western passenger terminal, new parallel runways, another air traffic control tower and the relocation of Irving Park Road, likely won't be done by its 2014 scheduled completion date, according to Professor Schwieterman.

"In the end, I still think it will be completed, but I question whether it'll go that fast," Schwieterman said.

He said the project has huge implications for the Northwest suburbs, providing an especially huge stimulus for Elk Grove Village and Bensenville with the hotels, restaurants and corporate jobs sure to follow.

Education

With investment firms like T. Rowe Price Associates predicting the average cost of a four-year college education in 2020 to be $133,000 at a public school and $287,000 at a private school, expect community colleges to play an even bigger role in the suburbs.

Community colleges are contemplating legislation that would require more of its credits to be transferrable to four-year schools, making them even more attractive to traditional students.

Suburbs on the move

Huntley and Grayslake are among the suburbs with grand visions to look plenty different in 2020.

Huntley, which in the last 10 years has grown from 5,800 to 23,000 people, is widening Route 47 through the heart of the village, and a $70 million interchange at Route 47 and Interstate 90 also is planned. The village, which sits in both McHenry and Kane counties, is awaiting a feasibility study to build a Metra station and could soon have its own hospital.

"Once the economy picks back up, we think we're going to see some significant commercial development," Village Manager Dave Johnson said. "All these are pieces to making us a full-service community."

Further northeast in Lake County, Grayslake has its own mammoth $818 million development deal in the works.

The proposed Cornerstone project will have office, industrial and research-development facilities blended with retail stores and homes near Peterson and Alleghany roads.

The development, expected to create 9,800 jobs, has yet to break ground to kick off a 12-year construction timetable.