Data shows pandemic's impact on Kane County commuting, transportation plans
The amount of traffic -- or lack thereof -- Kane County residents see on local roads is not a mirage, as new data supports the idea of changing patterns in work and recreational commuting.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency on Planning compiled the data, which Kane County Division of Transportation officials shared with county board members Tuesday. It shows truck traffic is up nearly 20% from pre-pandemic levels. Board member Drew Frasz pointed to a high volume of what appear to be Amazon and FedEx package deliveries streaming from facilities on Route 38.
Meanwhile, passenger vehicle traffic on Kane County roads is down 6% from the pre-COVID era, but that marks a substantial rebound from when traffic plummeted by as much as 44% at the height of shutdowns.
The rebounding traffic, except for anecdotal increases on local expressways, isn't workers. Workplace trips are down an average of 30%, though some of what's come back appears to be workers foregoing public transportation in the region in favor of driving to work one or two days per week instead of the typical five days, according to CMAP's data.
Instead, the increased traffic in Kane County may stem from about a 25% increase in weekend trips to retail outlets and for general recreation. Many of those recreational trips are to local parks, which have seen a twofold increase in visitors in recent months.
KDOT officials said that traffic is resulting in some rebound of county motor fuel taxes, which is used for local road maintenance and improvements. But the local county motor fuel tax income stream remains sluggish.
The county agency's budget for 2022 is not sluggish. Officials are proposing a $106 million list of expenses. That's up $20 million from the current year. Completion of the Longmeadow Parkway and toll will represent $33 million of that total.
As such, the budget envisions toll revenue for the first time in the county's history. Best projections show tolls of $2.88 million. Nearly all of it, $2.72 million, will go to start paying back the bond debt the county issued to fund the project and start pooling into a long-term maintenance fund for the tollway.
County officials continue to suggest the tolls will sunset, but they have not set a specific target date for the collection to cease.
The budget envisions 91 projects. The county will fund $85 million worth of that work. State funds are expected to pay about $12 million. That represents the highest share of the financial burden of road maintenance and improvements on the county in several years. Officials said help from state and federal sources continues to dwindle.
One exception is about $7 million secured by 14th Congressional District Rep. Lauren Underwood for the Bliss Road/Main Street/Fabyan realignment.
That intersection is notorious for traffic backups, rear-end crashes and lengthy signal delays. The realignment, which includes the introduction of a roundabout, is expected to relieve those issues. The $7 million will represent the vast majority of the cost of the project, which would see construction next year on the realignment. The roundabout would follow in 2023.