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CMAP News Release


For immediate release, Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Press Contacts: Tom Garritano (312-386-8609)
Mandy Burrell (312-863-6018)

Highway congestion numbers show pressing need for improvements to entire regional transportation network
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and partners advocate for clear regional priorities, collaborative planning, and adequate investments to improve transportation system as a whole

(CHICAGO) . . . The Texas Transportation Institute will issue its Urban Mobility Report on September 18, and all signs indicate metropolitan Chicago will still rank high on the list of congested urban areas. Yet leading planners say northeastern Illinois has a growing "menu" of tools to improve mobility for residents, businesses and visitors across the rapidly growing region.

Deploying those tools for enhancing transportation is increasingly urgent as the region is projected to add 2 million residents by 2030, according to the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). CMAP is the region's comprehensive agency for land use and transportation planning and is spearheading the region’s first-ever growth strategy.

"We have to address the whole transportation system, not just the roads," said CMAP executive director Randy Blankenhorn. "Although the region clearly needs strategic capacity improvements, northeastern Illinois can't build its way out of congestion. We need to find innovative solutions that maximize the benefit of existing infrastructure, including rail, buses, and all other forms of local travel. Giving people more transportation options can help keep the economy strong and improve our quality of life."

Chicagoland’s menu of tools includes technology and infrastructure enhancements to better manage traffic; more collaborative planning between public and private agencies to guide growth; and creative financing to expand options for travelers. Examples include:

Technology and Infrastructure

  • managed lanes to reduce congestion with information technology
  • point-to-point express bus transit service
  • high-speed information network enhancements for monitoring road conditions and providing travelers with real-time status reports
  • smart cards (transit systems and more)
  • improved freight rail infrastructure and flyovers to separate cars and freight trains
  • streetscape enhancements to improve the experience for walkers and shoppers
  • compact intersections with signal timing for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists alike

Collaborative Planning

  • integrating land use and transportation plans to get a bigger bang for the buck for existing and new infrastructure
  • promoting best practices such as transit-oriented development, transportation enhancement districts, multi-modal train stations, and density bonuses
  • facilitating a jobs-housing balance that enables people to live nearer to where they work
  • increasing public support for transit funding

Creative Financing

  • congestion pricing to improve system efficiency and reduce congestion, while also raising needed funds for infrastructure and operations
  • private investment in transportation infrastructure and services
  • public-private financing for transportation improvements
  • transportation enhancement districts

"The goal is to give people dependable and convenient travel choices, not simply to move cars faster on our roads," said MarySue Barrett, president of the Metropolitan Planning Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group of business and civic leaders. "The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and its partners are working together so that more people across our region can go where they want to go safely, reliably and painlessly, whether their mode of transportation is their feet, bicycles, busses, commuter trains, or cars. We will succeed -- economically, socially and environmentally -- if we prioritize transportation investments and new developments that connect attractive communities and provide greater access for people across the region," Barrett added.

The transportation system as a whole is complex, with varied parts that are highly inter-dependent. When progress is made in one area, the region will see benefits in other areas -- for example, improving the freight system has significant benefits for passenger rail, roads, safety, and the environment. The CMAP Board has been vocal in calling for the State of Illinois to fund a broad new program for capital improvements to the transportation system and other infrastructure.

CMAP is also conducting a year-long Travel Tracker survey to gauge residents' travel habits and transportation needs (http://www.chicagoareaplanning.org/travelsurvey/). Because the last large-scale travel survey was conducted in the early 1990s, Travel Tracker results are eagerly anticipated in 2008 by the region’s planning and transportation agencies, as well as university researchers. It will be among the important inputs to CMAP's regional comprehensive plan that will be published in 2010 -- the region's first to fully integrate land use and transportation planning.

"We see many reasons for optimism, despite the serious challenges," Blankenhorn said. "We're excited about the 2016 Olympics possibly coming to Chicago, which would bring millions of visitors who need to travel easily around the region. What could be a better 'dry run' for accommodating the permanent growth we're expecting? Those and other infrastructure improvements should leave a lasting legacy, the way Daniel Burnham's 1909 plan continues to benefit us today."

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