July 13, 2016
Five transportation policy priorities define agenda
Cook County has produced a Long Range Transportation Plan to guide the County’s transportation decisions and their impact on economic growth and quality of life over the next 25 years.
The Long Range Transportation Plan, Connecting Cook County, which will be introduced at today’s County Board meeting, lays the groundwork for how the County invests in transportation to attract and retain businesses, people, capital and talent. The report will next be presented to the Board’s Roads and Bridges Committee.
“Cook County is the second most populous county in the United States and sits at the center of our nation’s transportation infrastructure, including its largest freight hub,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “Our transportation system is one of our region’s most important assets – key not only to our economic prosperity but to the well-being of our residents.”
“It’s clear that Cook County must be a leader in this arena. Connecting Cook County is our guidebook to promote strategic partnerships and investments that strengthen our economy and lead to more livable communities,” Preckwinkle said.
The County has developed five policy priorities to shape its transportation agenda. They are:
- Prioritize transit and other transportation alternatives: Cook County supports the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s goal of doubling transit ridership by 2040. In addition, bicycles and pedestrians should be a priority and new development should include accommodations for both.
- Support the region’s role as North America’s freight capital: Metropolitan Chicago is the freight center of North America and represents a boon to the economy. But challenges such as congestion and wear on tear on roads and the rails are an issue. To retain its status as a global freight hub, Cook County will work with private companies and the many government agencies involved to ensure these complex issues are solved collaboratively.
- Promote equal access to opportunities: The unequal distribution of transportation services and opportunities leads to additional costs and restrictions for hundreds of thousands of Cook County families and companies each day. Cook County will establish economic development and transportation policies designed to create a climate conducive to business expansion and making jobs more accessible to households throughout the County.
- Maintain and modernize what already exists: Cook County will maintain and modernize existing transportation infrastructure. Failure to maintain current systems creates long-term costs, safety hazards and congestion. Cook County will use new practices and technologies to improve existing transportation facilities.
- Increase investments in transportation: In 2015, the County expanded transportation funding by ending the longstanding practice of diverting motor fuel tax funds for other uses. Cook County will continue to push for the reallocation of existing and new funds in ways that align with its transportation priorities. Because of the demonstrated importance of spending on transportation, the County will also need to explore new and increased sources of revenue.
Connecting Cook County calls on Cook County to be a more active partner in setting and implementing regional transportation policies. The plan details the commitment of its Department of Transportation and Highways (DOTH) to expand its traditional agenda focused on roads and bridges to include pedestrian walkways, bike lanes, public transportation options and freight facilities. This better links the resources of DOTH with the needs of our communities and residents. It also emphasizes the importance of collaborating across different levels and units of government to deliver regionally significant improvements that yield long term dividends.
“This plan corrects the inequities in the distribution of transportation resources that have negatively and disproportionately affected Southland communities,” said Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims, the chairwoman of the County’s Roads and Bridges Committee. “Recent investments by the County have already made a difference in retaining companies, growing the number of local jobs, and making communities better places to live. I look forward continuing this trend in the years to come.”
“The policy priorities of the Long Range Transportation Plan are focused on making sure all Cook County residents can connect with jobs throughout the County,” Preckwinkle said. “Connecting Cook County is the first step in making that goal a reality.”
The Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways led creation of the plan. The last time such a plan was authored was 1940. That document laid out the current expressway system within Cook County.
"Transportation is critical for business. Competitive transportation provides better access to a bigger pool of customers, suppliers and most importantly, talented workers. I applaud President Preckwinkle for producing this visionary plan,” said Michael Tang, CEO of National Material L.P., an international metals processor and manufacturing company, and vice chairman of Tang Industries, who served as chairman of the Advisory Committee.
The Long Range Transportation Plan was a collaboration between Cook County, residents and stakeholders. Residents were asked to weigh in on a dedicated website and at kiosks that were placed at numerous locations throughout the County.
Preckwinkle also named a 17-member Advisory Committee composed of business leaders, along with representatives from civic groups, local governments, and economic development organizations, to give a broad voice to the various interest groups and their concerns. She also named a 15-member Program Committee of transportation professionals and specialists who brought their specific areas of expertise to the table.