Which Should Go First: Prairie Parkway or Rt. 47?
Some folks say that there are two seasons in Northern Illinois, i.e. winter and road construction.
After visiting with Fr. Mario at Annunciation Church on Thursday, I drove past roadwork being done at the intersection of Indian Trail and Mitchell Roads. Construction workers earning good pay, crane equipment clawing into the ground, and new sewer lines and pavement being laid reminded me of what an expression of confidence in the future capital investment is.
Even if we're not alive thirty, forty or eighty years from now, our children and grandchildren will be and they will need good roads, clean water, and safe schools. Building those roads, bridges, and schools are legitimate purposes of government because they represent the collective effort of many people's sacrifice and work combined.
In western Kane and Kendall counties, the decision has been made to someday build an outerbelt highway called "Prairie Parkway" by some and "Sprawlway" by others to facilitate future growth in north-south traffic. This decision has been controversial because the new road will take over 2500 acres of the most beautiful and productive farmland in the world. If the eventual result is the same pattern as Randall and Orchard Roads that were originally meant to relieve congestion and speed traffic, the Prairie Parkway will spur development in areas designated as agriculture in the affected counties' comprehensive land use plans, further impacting approximately 5400 acres of farmland. The four-lane highway will environmentally degrade pristine streams, harm threatened and endangered species, and damage 57 jurisdictional wetlands. It will destroy 54 acres of forests, where 27 kinds of neo-tropical migrant birds are known to nest.
However, over the objection of many, this decision has already been made and the "centerline" for the highway corridor has been established. The Illinois Department of Transportation admits in their own report on the new highway that congestion relief benefits "appear to be quite small".
Now we face the decision, "How should we spend $207M that has been earmarked by Congressman Hastert in the federal transportation budget for the 'north-south connector between Routes 88 and 80'?" When I asked an IDOT engineer in a public meeting recently whether Rt. 47 qualifies as a connector, he simply replied, "Yes".
My recommendation is that we should support a plan that proponents call "47-Plus". Instead of spending $207M currently budgeted on a 5-mile stretch of parkway road with additional preparatory work north of that, we should fund work on a whole local road network that will reduce traffic congestion. Under this plan, Illinois Rt. 47 would receive a substantial repair between Rts. 88 and 80, the much anticipated widening through Yorkville which has been patiently waiting for three years and through other chokepoints. In addition to major work on Rt. 47 where congestion currently exists every day, major work would be done on Wikaduke Trail, Eldamain, Orchard, and Caton Farm Road Corridors as well as connecting roadwork on Rts. 34 and 71.
The Prairie Parkway centerline solves the problem that future development will not take place where a road might eventually be needed. So now, instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a highway that provides "quite small benefits", the better alternative is "47-Plus" where we would invest that money to fund a whole local network that will reduce traffic congestion now.
For more details, the following documents are provided: