Feds pull plug on Prairie Parkway expressway : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|Feds pull plug on Prairie Parkway expressway |
|Decision pleases opponents; Kendall County officials upset |
|by Tony Scott and Matt Schury|
The Prairie Parkway project, the proposed expressway that would have linked Interstate 88 in Kane County with Interstate 80 near Minooka, winding its way through Kendall County, is effectively dead, federal officials announced this week.
A decision drafted by Norman Stoner, division administrator, of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration, states that the only federal funding left for the corridor that was approved for the Parkway project is funding for Route 47 widening.
The document by Stoner states the agency determined in January that funds identified in the federal highway bill for the Prairie Parkway were eligible for the Route 47 widening.
In June, the widening was "amended into the fiscally constrained portion" of the agency's five-year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
"In addition, the funding for the construction of the Prairie Parkway was removed from the fiscally constrained TIP," the document states. "The only funding for construction of the Prairie Parkway remaining within the fiscally constrained portion of the 2010-2015 TIP relates to the (Route 47) widening."
"This decision rescinds the September 19, 2008 Record of Decision (ROD)," Stoner's document states.
That means that the original, final approval of the Parkway project from four years ago has been withdrawn.
Guy Tridgell, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said the agency is looking to use funds from the Parkway for Route 47.
"IDOT has been working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to utilize funds that were originally intended for the Prairie Parkway towards the expansion of Illinois 47, which will connect I-80 with I-88," Tridgell said. "These actions announced by USDOT were an anticipated step in this process and will permit IDOT the flexibility to move forward with addressing the growing traffic demands in the area and concentrate limited resources on projects that can be completed at the lowest possible cost."
Jan Strasma, a long-time Prairie Parkway opponent and chairman of the group Citizens Against the Sprawlway (CATS), said the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation was part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the federal government by Prairie Parkway opponents.
"After an 11-year ﬁght, we have ﬁnally scuttled this highway which would have destroyed thousands of acres of prime farmland, threatened the Fox River and its tributaries, and forever changed the area's small community way of life," Strasma said.
In a press release, Strasma's group joined the Environmental Law and Policy Center and Friends of the Fox River, OpenLands and the Sierra Club in celebrating the end of the project.
"We are pleased that the project will no longer pose a threat to the water quality of the Fox River, and appreciative to all the partners who have worked for this decision," said Gary Swick, president of Friends of the Fox River.
County Board chairman:
north-south route needed
Kendall County Board Chairman John Purcell said he hasn't read the stories on the project being rejected but noted that it was needed.
"I think it is a long-term need for the county (but) as far as a specific response, I have not read anything yet," he said. "I think (Route) 47 needs to be widened-well we're still waiting on that but it sounds like it's going forward."
Purcell added that it was a mystery as to where the money to widen the two roads was coming from.
"I have a hard enough time following the county's finances let alone the state or federal finances," he said. "We try to keep our house in order and they're trying to run their own sinking ships. I guess they have to do what they need."
When he first heard about the Prairie Parkway, Purcell said he knew it was going to be a long-term project.
"I thought then as I do now, in the long term it will be necessary and it sounds like it's still going to be a long term project," Purcell said.
He said he still believes the idea of the highway might come back.
"I haven't read anything specific, but I can't imagine 50 years from now or 30 years from now or 20 years from now that this discussion might not crop up again," he said. "In the long term I believe an outer beltway-whatever you want to call it-I think it will be necessary in the long-term. Although the way this economy is going you just don't know."
Supporter Vickery rips
current, past lawmakers
Kendall County Board member Anne Vickery has been a long time supporter of the project. As the Kendall County Board Chairman she even petitioned the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to take it over as a toll road. The Tollway Authority did not include the parkway in their long terms plans.
Vickery bemoaned the news that the parkway would not go forward.
"I think it's really too bad," she said, adding that building the Parkway could have brought jobs and jump-started the economy around it.
Vickery noted that some lawmakers objected to the Prairie Parkway, including state Sen. Chris Lauzen, R-Aurora, former U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Batavia, and current U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield Township.
"I'm appalled that Lauzen, Foster and Hultgren are as worthless as they really are," she said. "As far as I'm concerned all three of them will look back in 10 or 15 years-if they live that long-and they're going to wonder 'how stupid was I.' They were driven by a couple of dozen people up in the Big Rock area and they never looked at the bigger picture. And they think this is a good thing today, but I don't think that they have one blink of an eye as to what the next 20 years will bring."
Vickery said the withdrawal of the Parkway is the "single largest loss" she's suffered as a County Board member.
"I'm a real sore loser here without a doubt; this thing here has probably bothered me more than anything," she said. "The loss of the Prairie Parkway to me is probably the single largest loss that I can see as a County Board member."
When asked if the idea for a north-south corridor through Kendall County would ever come to fruition, Vickery responded "probably not in my life time or Lauzen's or Hultgren's or Foster's."
Vickery noted that a similar project to widen Route 47 through Morris did not alleviate traffic.
"People traveling Route 47 still have to go through Yorkville," she said. "They made Morris into four lanes all the way through, but I will tell you that getting through Morris at 7 a.m. is a 25-minute deal," she said. "They didn't solve anything. (Routes) 47 and 34 needed to have work any way, but to knock out the Prairie Parkway because of that - how very sad."
The State of Illinois would have needed to come up with matching funds to the federal dollars in order to get the project moving, something that Vickery said lawmakers never had the political will to move forward.
"When you have three people supposedly calling themselves leaders that are that short sighted - God help us," she said. "I hope they all lose their elections."