More than a highway at stake in GO TO 2040 plan update vote - Metropolitan Planning Council

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More than a highway at stake in GO TO 2040 plan update vote


Major capital projects identified in GO TO 2040, before the proposed update

This morning, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's (CMAP) board discussed the proposed update to our GO TO 2040 regional plan. The update, which is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, Oct. 8, would affirm the list of projects in the plan—including the Illiana Expressway, a project that MPC opposes. I testified before the board to remind them that the implications of this vote go beyond this one highway project: CMAP's ability to enforce a rational regional plan based on demonstrated need is at stake. 

At the meeting, CMAP Board Chair Gerald Bennett proposed a motion which passed, requiring CMAP's Policy Committee to adhere to the same super-majority vote requirement that the CMAP board follows. Chair Bennett believes such an approach would make a divided vote, such as the one that added the Illiana to GO TO 2040, less likely in the future. 

My full testimony below explains the rationale for this change:

For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council has demonstrated the critical role planning plays in our region’s success and viability. We campaigned to merge CATS and NIPC to form a single agency responsible for land use and transportation planning. We all knew it wouldn’t be easy, but in the 10 years since, CMAP has proven it can be even more than the sum of its two parts, with GO TO 2040 incorporating housing issues, water quality, workforce and even local foods. CMAP’s board is charged with overseeing the implementation of that broad vision. However, due to an odd quirk the policy committee still serves as the MPO and has authority over the board. The charge of the policy committee, the vestiges of CATS, is to program transportation dollars. If the broader agenda of CMAP’s board can be over-ruled by the narrower agenda of the policy committee then the promise of CMAP will never be fulfilled. In October, you’re not merely voting on the plan update. You are setting a precedent that could hinder CMAP’s ability to enact a responsible, regional plan.

In September of 2013, MPC made our opposition to the Illiana expressway clear. Since that time, nothing has changed to make us change our mind. In fact, time has only proven the accuracy of our concerns. When the Illiana was proposed, MPC stated that the risk of the project would fall on the taxpayers of Illinois, as it was clear that toll projections would not cover the true and complete cost of the roadway. Since then, the State has confirmed that it is seeking an availability model where the funds to pay for the project would be secured by state dollars. At the end of session last year, the State tried to pass legislation putting the repayment of the Illiana above all other capital projects for the state. Fortunately, the measure failed.

The Illiana experience has also taught us that the region must abide by its strong performance measures and stand as a national leader for project selection. 

CMAP has been lauded as a national example for strong regional performance measures. National researchers have sought to better understand how CMAP evaluates Major Capital Projects in light of economic development, environmental impact and improvements to social equity, in addition to the traditional transportation measures of safety, facility condition and travel time. CMAP’s performance measures have been touted as a model to Congress as it debates national legislation to guide the flow of billions in federal dollars toward transportation projects across the country. The last federal bill, MAP-21, made some progress incorporating performance measures but it is widely believed that more can and should be done when the surface transportation program is re-authorized next year. When the CMAP board considers the plan update, we recommend they take the opportunity to reassert the important, multi-dimensional goals expressed through their adopted performance measures and oppose the inclusion of the Illiana. It no better advances the goals of the plan today than it did a year ago when this body voted it down. 

Thank you,
Peter Skosey
Executive Vice President 


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