Metra scrutinizing $7.5 million Hastert got for Oswego extension
Among all the flak flying around former Speaker Dennis Hastert, one piece of significant news emerged unrelated to his indictment for lying to the FBI.
Metra Chairman Martin Oberman promised to open up the issue of a Hastert earmark worth about $7.5 million intended to extend the BNSF Line, which now ends at the Aurora station, to Oswego in Kendall County.
Hastert, a Kendall County Republican, secured that plum in the mid-2000s, but there's uncertainty about how to pay for a service expansion.
Kendall isn't part of the six-county system Metra serves. There's no sales tax there to subsidize transit operating costs plus the expense of building stations, a rail yard and additional track.
All of which led the Daily Herald to ask Oberman in mid-May: Why spend money on a track that may lead to nowhere?
After doing some research, "I have decided what we should do is relook at this whole project ... how it got to where it is now and what we should do in the future," Oberman said last week.
About $4.5 million of the earmark remains. Metra has committed $2.8 million for engineering studies, most recently for a $557,000 contract with consultants.
"Bringing Metra to Oswego and Kendall County is a top priority for the current board," Oswego Mayor Gail Johnson said. "We are aware that earmarks received in the early 2000s can only be used for this project and are quite certain the process will continue to evolve."
Johnson said she was reaching out to leaders in Yorkville, Montgomery and Plano and to the Kendall County Board "about taking a more regional approach rather than individual communities struggling for their own access."
"As our population continues to grow on the southern end of the Fox River, it is clear that our collective influence will be stronger than each community separately," Johnson said.
Oberman said he'll set a date to open up the discussions.
"I do think people of Kendall County have a right to be heard," he noted.
"We are going to examine this and try to figure out what makes sense and what is worth doing. Before we spend any more money, we will examine it."
Hastert was indicted May 28 and pleaded not guilty last Tuesday. Prosecutors said the case involves payments to cover up past misconduct. Yorkville is another possible stop for Metra in Kendall, along with Sandwich and Plano.
Metra's review of the project is "completely unrelated to what happened to Mr. Hastert," Oberman said.
Readers were eloquent about another possible extension -- Route 53 into Lake County.
Frank Leo of Palatine writes, "I do not think it is worth the cost. If I remember correctly, it was going to be a 'boulevard-type' toll road -- no trucks. I cannot imagine getting a lot of support for an expensive route that people travel at 45 mph. It will only get built if the state sticks it to the taxpayers again."
But Ann Berry of Arlington Heights missed her grandson's school concert solo in Round Lake because of traffic delays.
"Let's stop talking and do it," she wrote. "It's been way too long doing nothing. Building, building and building more homes/businesses, but no roads to get there easily, nor quickly. There is no good way to avoid long delays, two-lane roads, freight and commuter train crossings, not to mention shopping and strip mall congestion."
Got a comment about Oswego? Route 53? Traffic? Drop me an email at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter at dhintransit.
Hang in there I-90 nation. In a few months, we'll have snow and there will be no road work. In the meantime, watch out for some funky ramp changes at the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) and Route 31.
Two ramps connecting traffic to and from the west at the interchange are closed. That means Route 31 drivers who want to go west on I-90 and westbound I-90 folks aiming for southbound Route 31 will be rerouted. A temporary traffic signal will tell you where to go.
Westbound I-90 traffic heading to northbound Route 31 and northbound Route 31 vehicles traveling to eastbound I-90 will be shifted onto temporary pavement. Got it? Drive safely.
Give your car a rest
What a convergence. It's Dump the Pump Day Thursday and Bike Commuter Challenge week. In other words, try taking transit or biking to get around. You'll not only reduce pollution but a household can save $13,000 a year if they downsize to one car, the Regional Transportation Authority estimates. To learn more, go to www.rtachicago.org or www.bikecommuterchallenge.org.
Flying with the family this summer? Although the moving walkway is a source of endless entertainment, Midway International Airport will up the ante with an Air Carnival. As in stilt-walkers, pinball and puppets. (The TSA is not participating, so no high jinks in the security line). Kids can make a Father's Day gift Tuesday and get a temporary tattoo June 26. For more events, go to flychicago.com/midway.