Friday, July 29, 2005

There was an interesting article in the Daily Herald today about various transportation projects in the Chicagoland region that will receive funding through the Transportation Equity Act.

It also includes $70 million for a Stearns Road bridge over the Fox River near the DuPage-Kane county border and millions for reconstruction of the Route 60 bridge over the Tri-State Tollway near Mettawa.

The region’s biggest single winner is the $207 million set aside for the Prairie Parkway project, a proposed interstate linking I-88 to I-80 and running through Kane, Kendall and Grundy counties.

How important is that Stearns Road bridge? Is that going to have a big impact? A couple of things I'd like to see as far as transportation goes are 1) entrance and exit ramps on US20 and Shales Parkway and 2) a Fox Valley corridor linking I-90 and I-88.

The benefits of on and off ramps at Shales Parkway and US20 are obvious. Nowadays, so many cars traffic through there that there isn't even enough space for left-turning cars to park, which creates a dangerous situation.

The Prairie Parkway project is interesting, because the long-term plans are to eventually connect to I-90 west of Hampshire, which is too far west to do the Fox Valley any good. Look at a map and it's obvious that the Fox Valley is missing a north-south highway, which would cut commute time in half and make the region far more attractive to business and development. One of the reasons that the suburbs between the Fox Valley and Chicago do better at attracting Fortune 500 firms is that they do have major north-south arteries (I-355 and I-294).

Boston has Rte 128 to connect its high-tech firms; North Carolina's Research Triangle is connected by I-40; and Silicon Valley has two major arteries, I-280 and US101. Drive through Silicon Valley on 280 or 101 and you can really appreciate the huge impact that those arteries have on the attractiveness of the region for business. That's why I think that a north-south artery is critical to establishing the Fox Valley as the ideal place within Chicagoland for high-technology and Fortune 500 firms.

After that, the only thing missing is a major research university in the Fox Valley, a situation that can be remedied by asking the General Assembly to establish a University of Illinois at Batavia on the Fermilab campus. Then Illinois will finally have its answer to Silicon Valley.

Obviously this isn't going to be accomplished in the next 5 years. But I think its worth working towards, even it takes 20 or 30 years.

Read the article.

Also see:
Prairie Parkway website
Conservation Foundation comments & map
Silicon Valley map
Fox Valley/Chicagoland map


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