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Cross sets summit on Prairie Parkway funds : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Cross sets summit on Prairie Parkway funds
Area officials have differing views on how $100M should be spent

by Matt Schury


State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, has scheduled a meeting with local officials to discuss the reallocation of $100 million previously designated for the Prairie Parkway expressway.

A letter from Cross, read aloud at the Kendall County Board meeting Tuesday by Chairman John Shaw, says the meeting will be held next Thursday, Feb. 14, at Oswego Fire Station No. 1 at 3511 Woolley Road in Oswego.

"I think it will be a good meeting, an interesting meeting, I'm glad they're doing it," Shaw said.

Last month, the County Board agreed to send a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) requesting a meeting with the two groups to discuss how $100 million formerly allocated for the Prairie Parkway is to be spent.

IDOT is currently moving forward with plans to widen Route 47 south of Yorkville from Caton Farm Road to the City of Morris in Grundy County.

Some board members have said they think the money would be better spent on widening Route 47 to four lanes from Kennedy Road in Yorkville north to Jericho Road in Sugar Grove in Kane County.

Shaw said he recently spoke to Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.

"He told me at this juncture that he was primarily interested in the clover leaf at I-88 and Route 47 in Kane County," Shaw said. "I informed Chairman Lauzen, who I have known for quite a few years, that my interest as chairman of the Kendall County Board would be to keep as much of the funding as possible within the confines of our lovely county."

A resolution was drafted last by the County Board month asking the two agencies to discuss specifics in widening the northern portion of Route 47 as well as the possibility of using the funds to build a bridge over the Fox River between Route 34 and 71 as well as other improvements from I-80 to I-88. That resolution was postponed in a unanimous vote at the Jan. 15 board meeting.

A copy of the letter from Cross, addressed to Shaw at his home address in Yorkville, indicates the intent is to "facilitate an informative interaction between the Illinois Department of Transportation and the local bodies who have strategic plans for stretches of Route 47."

Cross says in the letter that he has invited stakeholders with an interest in the project including representatives from local government bodies along Route 47, officials from IDOT, representatives from Congressman Randy Hultgren's office and various area legislators.

"The meeting will not be a public forum, but an informal meeting of a small group of interested parties who have direct interest in the future of Route 47," the letter says.

Cross also says in the letter that in order to limit discussion to "effective and productive communication" the group attending the meeting will be limited to those who received direct contact by his office.

When asked if the meeting would be open to the public and the press, Kendall County State's Attorney Eric Weis said he didn't know.

Shaw noted that there are some restrictions to the meeting, since Cross is calling the meeting through the Governor's office, as to who should attend "so that we do not violate the Open Meetings Act."

Shaw said in addition to himself, those representing the County Board would probably include board members Jeff Wehrli and Dan Koukol who chairs the County's Highway Committee.

Wehrli said he was in favor of the meeting.

"This is a great start. I think this is not going to be the only meeting but this will be the start of some productive conversation and our group will get a chance to speak," Wehrli said. "So I want to make sure whoever is represented at this and future meetings has an opportunity to express the interest of the entire board."

Board member Amy Cesich noted that Shaw had said he was in favor of keeping the money at the southern end of Kendall County. However, Shaw clarified that when he attended the meeting he would express all the viewpoints of County Board members including those who wanted to see the funds used to widen Route 47 north of Yorkville.

"Here's my position... I'm not in favor of pushing the money up there (Kane County) for the cloverleaf and (I-88)," he said. "As far as my position and what I stated one of the few farm boys on the board, we are going to listen. I don't really think they are going to be too interested in what I have to say or anyone else because there is going to be some fairly powerful people at this meeting since it is federal funding. But once again, I'd like to keep it in the county."

Shaw told the board he would give them a full report of what happens at the meeting.

"I know this meeting has been in the works since before we were notified, I think we were notified as an afterthought," he said. "I am glad that we have at least been invited."

Cesich said it was "interesting" that the meeting between officials of Kane County and Illinois legislators was in the works before the County Board sent their letter.

"Interesting is probably a nice word to put it," she said.

The Prairie Parkway would have linked Interstate 88 in Kane County with Interstate 80 near Minooka, moving through Kendall County. The Prairie Parkway was first considered by IDOT in 1999, and the first public hearing on the project was held in December of 2001.

Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, championed the project and secured $207 million in earmarks for the project in the 2005 federal highway bill. The project was ended this fall when the FHWA rescinded their Record of Decision.

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