Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with the Illinois
congressional delegation yesterday to talk about the state's stimulus
take. As we noted in the Early Bird, the big news is that contractor
bids are coming in lower than projected, meaning the state's federal money ...
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood met with the Illinois congressional delegation yesterday to talk about the state's stimulus take. As we noted in the Early Bird, the big news is that contractor bids are coming in lower than projected, meaning the state's federal money will go a little farther than officials had anticipated. But the Sun-Times Lynn Sweet also reported this interesting nugget from Rep. Bill Foster about the controversial Prairie Parkway road project in the Collar Counties:
The controversial "Prairie Parkway" is off the table for now, a victory for west suburban anti-sprawl forces. [...]
Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who replaced [former House Speaker J. Dennis] Hastert, said Wednesday there is "a near consensus in the area," that "the first priority for money being spent on roads is probably not in that (Prairie Parkway) corridor but rather beefing up the existing north south corridors and so on."
Here's a refresher for those who don't remember the specifics. During negotiations over the 2005 surface transportation bill, the former Speaker slipped in two earmarks totalling $207 million to fund the Prairie Parkway -- a 37-mile, north-south connector west of Chicago that would run through Kane and Kendall County in the 14th District.
The ethics of the proposal later came into question when it was revealed that a land trust in which Hastert was a partner sold 138 acres of property to a developer five miles from the proposed route just months after President Bush signed the transit bill into law, netting the group $1.8 million. The Sunlight Foundation and other government watchdogs pointed out that Hastert did not disclose this relationship before securing the appropriation.
On merit, the project was flawed as well. Anti-sprawl activists argued that the $1 billion highway was a poor solution for a growing region because it would have created numerous problems for agriculture, the environment, and land-use planning. According to the 47+ coalition, an openlands organization, the government would have had to take over 2,500 acres of prime farmland through eminent domain. The project would have also severely threatened local forests and waterways.
Foster is planning to ask Congress to "reprogram" the money for other maintenance projects, certainly a better use of taxpayer dollars. For a list of local roads that could be widened, connected, and repaired in Foster's region, check out the list provided by the 47 Plus Coalition.