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How to spend $100 million on highways? : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
How to spend $100 million on highways?
State, county lawmakers meet today with IDOT officials in Oswego

by Matt Schury


Representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), local elected officials and other area officials are schedule to meet today, Thursday, Feb. 14, behind closed doors at Oswego Fire Station No. 1 at 3511 Woolley Road in Oswego, to discuss what to do with funding formerly designated for the Prairie Parkway.

The gathering, set up by State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, is being described as a "fact finding" meeting.

"It's more just trying to assess what the local needs are," Cross said.

He expects IDOT officials to attend as well as representatives from the Village of Sugar Grove and the City of Yorkville.

Additionally, Cross has also invited someone from Senator Mark Kirk's office, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, State Rep. Pam Roth, R-Morris, and State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville.

Board members from the Kane and Kendall County Boards have also been invited including Kendall County Board Chairman John Shaw and Kane County Chairman Board Chris Lauzen.

"It's a combination of local officials along Route 47," Cross said.

The Ledger-Sentinel has requested a list of officials scheduled to meet, however that list was not made available as of press time.

The meeting doesn't fall within the scope of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) because there won't be a quorum of elected officials from any one body present. As a result, the officials can legally meet behind closed doors.

Cross said he would make himself available for questions following the meeting.

Shaw also said that he would give a full report to the county board during their committee of the whole meeting scheduled later that day.

Don Craven, general counsel for the Illinois Press Association, confirmed that the OMA only applies when a majority of a quorum of a public body is present "not to meetings involving only a member or two of several public bodies. So, he can do it this way."

"I don't talk about every single meeting I've ever had and I am always of the camp that you ought to know everything and I've never held anything back. They just want to come up and hear what people have to say," Cross said.

The Prairie Parkway would have linked Interstate 88 in Kane County with Interstate 80 near Minooka, moving through Kendall County. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, secured $207 million in earmarks for the project in the 2005 federal highway bill. The project was ended this fall when the Federal Highway Administration rescinded their Record of Decision.

It is estimated that there is about $100 million in federal funding left over that was going to be used to begin the expressway.

Cross said the road doesn't even go through his district but as a Kendall County resident it was important to discuss the funding. He said that he had a variety of people contact his office asking what was going to happen with the federal money.

"I met with the governor himself, he said, 'Tom, we're getting this federal money, do you have any thoughts on it?'" Cross related. "I said, 'Why don't we just bring IDOT up here and have a meeting so they can hear what the priorities are and what people are thinking, what the needs are.'"

Cross added that there would be no decisions made at the meeting but it will be a "fact finding mission for the Department of Transportation."

IDOT began moving forward last year with plans to widen Route 47 south of Yorkville from Caton Farm Road to the city of Morris in Grundy County.

As far as other ideas that might be generated from the meeting, Cross explained, that is still to be determined.

He did mention that Sugar Grove has some interest in an interchange at Route 47 and I-88 in Kane County.

"Look, I'm still trying to get a handle on it, this (Route 47) isn't even in my district. But I live in Kendall and I obviously always keep Kendall County issues on the top of my plate," he said. "I've always been concerned about that whole Route 30 corridor all the way from Route 47 all the way back to Route 126. I set this up kind of just to facilitate it because I had all these people calling me."

Regardless of how the money is spent Cross said he expects it to benefit Route 47 and stay in the Fox Valley Area.

"Whatever the number is, it won't come close to meeting, I suspect, all the demands," he said. "It will be-I don't want to say a wake up call-but from a factual standpoint it will be good for everybody to hear what's available. These projects cost a lot of money and one project can suck up a lot money."

Cross would like to see plans IDOT's plans and the criteria for the money. He said he is going to be asking plenty of questions.

"Are there things we can use it for? Are there some things we can't? How much do we actually have?" Cross said. "IDOT has not said anything to me about where they're going with this."

The Kendall County Board has discussed where the funding could best be used. Some have advocated using it to repair and widen Route 47 between Sugar Grove and Yorkville.

County Board member Judy Gilmour said she believes it makes most sense to widen the northern portion of Route 47 where there tends to be more traffic.

"From my perspective I just don't see the logic why they would allocate those funds in the part of Route 47 where there isn't a traffic problem," Gilmour said.

She says she also has questions about how IDOT made the decision to move the Parkway funding to widen the southern leg of Route 47.

She also has concerns about the meeting being closed to the public as well

"Let the public weigh in on this because this is public money. It's taxpayer money," Gilmour concluded.

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