Create 75,000 new jobs through infrastructure investment

Our Great Rivers sets forth Chicago's first unifying vision for city's three rivers

Infrastructure is the backbone of a healthy regional economy, and in a city that has long prized and protected its lakefront, our waterways are a critical part of this foundation. The Chicago, Calumet and Des Plaines rivers are three of our city’s greatest—and most undervalued—assets. In 2015, MPC partnered with the City of Chicago and Friends of the Chicago River to lead Great Rivers Chicago, to develop Chicago’s first unified vision and action agenda for our entire river system. We scoured past plans and reports, hosted more than 100 public outreach sessions and heard from more than 6,000 people across the region about their aspirations for our three rivers. Through the conversations we had and data we collected, MPC produced Our Great Rivers, a guiding vision and action agenda released in August 2016 that will guide investment and development in and along Chicago's three rivers for decades to come.

Former industrial buildings along the Milwaukee River now contain homes and businesses with boat access.

The report calls for rivers that are “productive, living and inviting,” and invites all Chicagoans to have a personal relationship with our rivers. The Our Great Rivers report includes goals for 2020, 2030 and 2040, including retaining and attracting new businesses, entrepreneurs and jobs that rely on the water. We are advocating for Chicago to have an array of new economic development incentives by 2020 that will attract new businesses of all types and sizes: concessions run by neighborhood entrepreneurs, reuse of historic buildings and structures, advanced manufacturing, tourism and hospitality, breweries and more. For example, a new micro-loan program for developing concessions—particularly for capital needs, such as purchasing food carts or renting equipment–could activate riverfront spaces while creating local jobs, building community pride and enhancing neighborhood wealth.

Debbie Liu “Ping Tom Park is a jewel on the Chicago River and one of Chinatown’s and the South Loop’s most prized assets. Through the Ping Tom Park Advisory Council, my neighbors and I shape programming and investments in the park and engage our fellow community members in stewardship of the park and river. The ‘Our Great Rivers’ vision and action agenda reflects our desire to increase awareness of and access to Ping Tom Park for people across the city, while continuing to foster opportunities for local entrepreneurship, cultural programming, active recreation and events that reflect the heritage and diversity of surrounding neighborhoods.”

—Debbie Liu, Ping Tom Park Advisory Council (and Community Development Coordinator, Coalition for A Better Chinese American Community)

Next steps

MPC worked with a broad range of constituents to shape this vision, and we will continue to partner with a range of actors—governments, nonprofit organizations, business and property owners and community groups—in the coming years, to develop and implement plans that match the vision in Our Great Rivers. At the same time, we will explore long-term governance and financing solutions to support coordinated planning, investment and management in our rivers system to ensure future generations of Chicagoans can effectively work together to create our city’s “Second Coast.”


MPC tallies Illinois’ transportation needs at $43 billion

MPC consulted experts around the state to determine that meeting Illinois’ transportation deficit will require an investment of $43 billion over the next 10 years, or an average of $4.3 billion each year. In March 2016 we started an honest civic conversation in the Chicago region and across the state about the many solutions to this deficit. MPC facilitated “43 minutes for $43 billion,” a mass effort to remind Springfield of the importance of investing in our transportation system. Participants were urged to call their representatives and the Governor, and to spread the word with social media posts using the hashtag #InfrastructureMatters. MPC also recommended that the Illinois Constitution be amended to create a trust fund to protect transportation revenue. In November, Illinois voters approved a ballot referendum in support of a constitutional amendment that will create a "lockbox" ensuring any money Illinois collects for transportation is actually spent on transportation.

Source: State of Illinois, U.S. Census, National Association of State Budget Officers; fiscal years

Source: Ill. Dept. of Transportation, Metropolitan Planning Council

UPS “Efficient transportation is critical to UPS and our ability to provide superior service to our millions of customers. Illinois, and especially the Chicago region, is an important part of the UPS transportation network and is home to our company’s largest ground sorting facility in the nation. The highway, rail and intermodal capabilities found in Chicago are not only important to UPS, they’re an essential part of our country’s transportation system. Unfortunately, much work and financial resources are needed to bring our highways, bridges and rail network up to 21st century standards. The effect and costs of poor infrastructure are staggering. At UPS, a five-minute delay per driver per day costs $105 million per year. For UPS and other businesses around Illinois, investing more in transportation would not only reduce these costs, it would allow us to better serve our customers.”

—Ray Drake, Vice President, State Government Affairs, UPS

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