Posted on January 31, 2008 10:02 PM
Weekly Update, 2/1/08
Weekly Update, 2/1/08
EJ&E update. On January 31, 2008, I testified at a Chicago hearing of the Illinois House Committee on Rail Safety regarding the proposed Canadian National (CN) Railway acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern (EJ&E) Railway. Click here to see my testimony (85KB PDF). CMAP's position is that much more detailed study is necessary as part of the federal Surface Transportation Board's Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process. Our agency is committed to playing a strong role in that process to help ensure that the potential impacts -- both positive and negative -- are weighed carefully so the STB can make the best decision for our region. I also believe the region has traditionally lacked a regional voice on freight issues in general, and that is a challenge that CMAP needs to take up.
George Weber of IDOT testified that the department has requested an extension from the STB to provide comments on the CN-EJ&E acquisition request because it has not received all the information it requested regarding safety and programmatic issues. For example, CN has not said if it will maintain any of the existing rails that are used for six Amtrak routes that may be affected by the acquisition. (Recent stories in the Charleston Journal-Gazette and the Southern Illinoisan demonstrate concerns of downstate residents who rely on Amtrak.)
Shauna Kelly and Mike Stead of the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) testified that, while the commission has no jurisdiction over rail line acquisitions, it does have jurisdiction over rail safety, including public rail crossings, highway rail crossings, and operating practices. Stead stated that there are 140 public, highway, and pedestrian rail grade crossings within the proposed rail acquisition by CN. The ICC will participate in the EIS review process and comment or clarify regarding issues specifically related to safety crossings.
There is coverage of the hearing in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Joliet Herald-News, and Pioneer Press. For more details, see CMAP's January 28 letter to the STB, and click here for other newspaper coverage. Also, the STB has extended the comment period on scoping of its EIS until February 15.
Crain's Chicago Business. This week's Crain's Chicago Business has an item about CMAP Board vice chairman Rita Athas and appointment as executive director of World Business Chicago. It lists some of Rita's many accomplishments, including her lead role in creation of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and service from 2001-07 as Mayor Daley's deputy chief of staff for external affairs. The same issue has a lengthy set of articles about Daniel Burnham's continuing influence, with a nod to the upcoming Burnham Centennial. Crain's reporter Sarah A. Klein writes, "The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the regional transportation and land use planning agency, will unveil its strategic plan for the area (in 2010). The CMAP plan, like the one Mr. Burnham oversaw, considers how to improve economic viability by updating passenger and freight transportation, reducing congestion and combating pollution." It's obviously flattering for the agency to mentioned in this context, and we're working hard to earn that distinction, in partnership with the Burnham Centenial and the Chicago Community Trust.
Public comment period for transportation plan and program. CMAP is seeking public comments on proposed changes to the Chicago region’s FY 2007-2012 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and 2030 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). The changes will facilitate additional lanes on I-355 from 75th Street to I-88 and initial stages of Prairie Parkway construction in Kendall County. A 30-day public review and comment period will be held from Friday, January 18, 2008 through Sunday, February 17, 2008. The Illinois Tollway is preparing to construct two additional through lanes on I-355 from 55th St to I-88. This project was previously not included in the RTP and the TIP. The project will be let in two stages: northbound this spring and southbound later. This 4.5-mile project will help to relieve congestion. The Prairie Parkway is proposed to be implemented as a staged project, based on available funding. The first stage, between IL 71 and US 34, is being moved forward for completion by 2012. CMAP is proposing to modify its TIP to reflect this project phasing. To see details of the proposed changes, please click here (opens 50KB PDF). Written comments on the proposed amendment may be mailed to CMAP, Attn: RTP/TIP Comments, Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60606, or e-mailed to TIP@cmap.illinois.gov. Please include "RTP/TIP Comments" in the subject area. The public review and comment period will continue through February 17, 2008.
MPO Policy Committee by-laws. CMAP is seeking public comments on revised by-laws for the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Committee. The committee released these changes for a 30-day public review and comment period on January 14, 2008. The by-laws have been revised to reflect the evolution of the planning process in northeastern Illinois. To view the proposed revisions, click here. Written comments may be mailed to: Attn: Bylaw Comments, CMAP, Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker Blvd., Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60657 or e-mailed to TIP@cmap.illinois.gov. Please include "Bylaw Comments" in the subject area. The public review and comment period will continue through February 13, 2008.
State transportation plan. The Illinois State Transportation Plan 2007 has been delivered to Governor Blagojevich and General Assembly. Visit www.illinoistransportationplan.org to download the plan, which was developed to meet federal and state requirements. It includes the Illinois State Transportation Plan 2007 Summary Report and a number of special reports on specific aspects of the transportation system, including aviation, bicycle/pedestrian, freight, highways, transit, waterways, and more. For more information, contact Keith Sherman of IDOT (217-782-2755).