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A 'little bit of a turf battle' on highway funds : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
A 'little bit of a turf battle' on highway funds
Kendall, Kane, state officials huddle behind closed doors in Oswego

by Matt Schury


Top state and local officials had their say last week regarding the use of federal funding formerly earmarked to build the Prairie Parkway expressway.

The money was diverted to the Ill. Route 47 corridor between I-80 and I-88 after the Federal Highway Administration rescinded their Record of Decision this fall, effectively killing the Parkway.

The exact location the money will now go to widen and improve local highways is still being decided. It has been suggested that the funding be used to widen Route 47 from Caton Farm Road south of Yorkville to I-80 near Morris.

However, members of the Kendall County Board as well as officials from the City of Yorkville have objected, saying remaining funds should be used to widen Route 47 in Yorkville north of Kennedy Road.

On Tuesday, the County Board advised its Planning Building and Zoning committee, Tuesday, to draft a resolution of support for keeping the money to widen Route 47 in northern Kendall County. The board is expected to vote on the resolution next month.

The Prairie Parkway would have linked Interstate 88 in Kane County with Interstate 80 in Kendall County. Former U.S. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, secured $207 million in earmarks.

State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, said he organized the meeting to get area government officials and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) on the same page.

"I thought it was excellent," Cross said of the meeting. "The fact that IDOT was in here willing to listen was very, very good. You obviously had a little bit of a turf battle-I don't want it to sound too strong."

The meeting, which was closed to the public and press, was held last week at Oswego Fire Station No. 1 at 3511 Woolley Rd. in Oswego and included local, state and federal officials.

Cross estimated that the meeting lasted about one hour.

Among the attendees, Cross reported, was Ann Schneider, Illinois Secretary of Transportation, and staff members from IDOT.

"IDOT said, 'Look, this is what we're looking at,'" Cross said. "One of the things I didn't know was that this money can only be used from the areas from (Interstate) 80 to 88. It can't go beyond that."

According to Cross, municipal leaders at the meeting included Yorkville Mayor Gary Golinski, Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels and Oswego Village President Brian LeClercq.

Cross also reported someone from Senator Mark Kirk's office, U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Winfield), State Rep. Pam Roth (R-Morris), State Rep. Kay Hatcher (R-Yorkville).

Board members from the Kane and Kendall County Boards also attended, including Kendall County Board Chairman John Shaw and Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.

"I think everybody in that room knows that we have traffic challenges out here in a big way," Cross said. "It was a good meeting."

He estimated that about $50 million of the earmark is left for projects along Route 47.

Cross mentioned that Sugar Grove and Kane County would like to receive some funding to build an interchange joining northbound Route 47 to I-88.

"Obviously Sugar Grove wants that interchange," Cross said.

He added that since I-88 is a tollway, half the funding to build the interchange would come from the Illinois State Tollway Authority with the other 25 percent from local governments and 25 percent from the state.

Shaw reported that he explained to those at the meeting that most of the County Board wanted the remaining earmark to be used for the northern portion of Route 47 in Kendall County, though some board members wanted Route 47 widened all the way to I-88 as well.

"I said briefly that 80 percent of the board was for the northern part from Kennedy Road ... and actually the 80 percent was kind of split because some of the 80 percent wanted to go up to the tollway," Shaw said.

He added that he agreed the meeting went well.

"It think we should have more meetings like this," Shaw said. "I know that (Route) 47 going through Yorkville is a giant pain in the neck but it's going to be better once it's done."

Shaw added that the meeting was an "amazing eye opener" of local and state government exchanging ideas. Shaw said he's glad he sent the letter.

"I'm encouraged that we got the response that we did. I enjoy having conversation with Kane County. There's so much money up there it makes us look like kindergarten," Shaw said.

Neither Cross nor Shaw said they knew what the next step would be but since the funding is a federal earmark they said the final decision of where to move the money would probably be made soon by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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