How Cook County plans to improve suburban roads, transit

  • Expansion and improvements to the Rosemont transit center are among the projects included in Cook County's long-range transportation plan released Wednesday.

      Expansion and improvements to the Rosemont transit center are among the projects included in Cook County's long-range transportation plan released Wednesday. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Cook County's long-range transportation plan includes improvement and expansion to public transportation, bridges and roads, rail freight and trucking as walking and biking paths.

      Cook County's long-range transportation plan includes improvement and expansion to public transportation, bridges and roads, rail freight and trucking as walking and biking paths. Anna Marie Kukec | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/13/2016 5:49 AM

Cook County's transportation plan for the next 25 years includes projects aimed at improving suburban roads and transit, but the cost could lead to a push for tax increases in the future.

Among the proposals included in the report to be released today is the expansion and renovation of the Rosemont transit center to accommodate Pace express bus service on the Jane Addams Tollway and other improvements. It also calls for Touhy Avenue reconstruction and a new bypass at Old Higgins Road in Elk Grove Village, along with improvements to the Union Pacific rail crossing west of Mount Prospect Road.

 

Other plans include participating in the effort to improve access to O'Hare International Airport by connecting the Jane Addams and Tri-State tollways west of the airport, rebuilding deteriorating municipal and truck routes in the Southern suburbs, and servicing suburban "transit deserts" lacking access to public transportation.

"We're not just talking about roads and bridges," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle in a conference call late Monday. "We have to think about freight, bicycles, trucks, air modal facilities. … We can't limit our vision to exclude transit and freight."

"This is our plan for the next 25 years," she said, describing it as a framework for the design and implementation of an integrated, multijurisdictional transportation system. "It's not like we're going to snap our fingers today and it will be done in the next three months."

Paying for the projects referenced in the 80-page report raises the prospect of advocating for an increase in the state fuel tax, which Preckwinkle is not proposing at this time.

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"It's an option, but I'm not proposing it. ... In the long term we'll have to look at that," Preckwinkle said. "The point is we need more resources for infrastructure."

Of the more than $1.2 billion Cook County municipalities and townships spent on transportation in 2014, only $223 million came from the state motor fuel tax, according to the report.

Beginning in 2017, however, the money available for transportation through the fuel tax will increase by $45 million per year as a result of the county ending in 2015 the practice of diverting those funds to public safety and court services.

According to Preckwinkle, $65 million will be available next year to fund multiyear projects like the bridge replacement, lane reconstruction and traffic signal modernization at Roselle and Schaumburg roads.

Preckwinkle will introduce the plan to the Board of Commissioners today, with final approval scheduled for Aug. 3.

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