Putting sidewalks and bike lanes on equal footing - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Putting sidewalks and bike lanes on equal footing

With the passage of HB270, the Illinois Department of Transportation will fully fund bicycle and pedestrian elements of roadway corridor projects in urban areas and no longer require a local match for these elements

Until now, the local municipality was required to provide 20% of the cost to build a sidewalk, bike lane, or sidepath

Get ready to walk and bike more in Illinois!  With the passage of HB270, a major barrier to the addition of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure along state-owned roads has hit the dust. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) has always covered the full cost of reconstructing the travel lanes on state-owned roadways used by drivers of motor vehicles. But until now, the local municipality was required to provide 20% of the cost to build a sidewalk, bike lane, or sidepath. As a result of this new legislation, the state will now fully fund sidewalks and bike lanes when they’re included in a project along a state-owned road in communities within one mile of an urban area with a population of 1,000 or more.  

This is critical, because in the past, if communities couldn’t afford the match amount, the walking and biking infrastructure would be removed from the final design. Or even worse: communities wouldn’t even ask for it because they knew they couldn’t cover the costs. Just think of all the opportunities we’ve missed to create safer and healthier communities. No community should be denied this critical safety infrastructure.  

This rule change has been a long time coming. Illinois’ 2007 Complete Streets law requires IDOT to include walking and bicycling infrastructure in projects where it’s needed. But the local cost share policy developed by IDOT often prevented this from happening, while also contributing to project delays and re-engineering. 

Just think of all the opportunities we’ve missed to create safer and healthier communities.

The reality is state-owned roads are the main streets of many Illinois communities, where lots of activity occurs. For people who don’t or can’t afford to drive, the lack of safe bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure effectively prevents them from participating in community life. These are often groups that have already been marginalized, such as people with disabilities, seniors, children, and low-income families. Sidewalks are a basic building block of our transportation system, as highlighted in MPC’s Toward Universal Mobility report, and we’re already severely lacking in them.  

That’s why advocates including Active Transportation Alliance, Ride Illinois and MPC teamed up to work with bill sponsors Representative Anna Moeller (IL-43) and Senator Christopher Belt (IL-57) to advance this legislation. Ensuring biking and walking facilities can seamlessly be integrated into every appropriate roadway project is a huge win for Illinois, given transportation’s impact on public health, climate change, equity, household costs, and community livability. We are excited to see the positive impact this legislation will have on communities of all sizes in Illinois! 

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