EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Explore Illinois corridor of opportunity

2014-04-06T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Explore Illinois corridor of opportunityBy Ed Paesel nwitimes.com
April 06, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Travel south on Ill. 394 from I-80/I-294, past its merger with Ill. 1, to the proposed Illiana Expressway interchange and you’ll pass 11 distinct communities in south Cook and eastern Will counties.

These communities each have their own priorities, but they have come together to produce a cohesive land use, economic development and transportation plan for the entire Ill. 394/Ill. 1 corridor. South Holland, Lansing, Glenwood, Lynwood, Chicago Heights, Ford Heights, Sauk Village, South Chicago Heights, Steger, Crete and Beecher are the participating communities.

This planning effort was made possible by a $290,000 grant to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association from the Illinois Department of Transportation with the required $32,000 match supplied by Cook and Will counties.

The kickoff of the Corridor Planning Council was held in Sauk Village the last week of March, marking the beginning of an 18-month process. In addition to the communities, the two counties, IDOT and other local and regional agencies will provide input to assure a comprehensive and collaborative effort.

SSMMA and a steering committee chose TranSystems as the lead consultant for the project. Along with sub-consultants The Lakota Group, Gruen Gruen & Associates and Active Transportation Alliance, this team will provide the expertise in land use planning, transportation and economic development required for a multi-faceted plan.

Clearly, the corridor already has a strong base of transportation, distribution and manufacturing in corridor communities such as South Holland, Lansing, Sauk Village and Chicago Heights.

In addition, commercial/retail developments already exist in Glenwood and Crete. Along the length of the corridor, Balmoral Race Track, forest preserves and golf courses provide a strong quality of life presence. How do the communities build upon them and other assets moving forward into the future?

Other potential developments such as the South Suburban Airport, the Southeast Metra Commuter Rail, the Illiana Expressway, the proposed CenterPoint Intermodal in Crete and a south suburban casino all will influence the future development of this area.

The goal of the effort is to review the existing assets of the corridor, examine the influence of game-changing projects that may or may not occur and develop various scenarios of how the corridor and its communities can develop a more robust economic base.

It is critical to use this comprehensive effort to provide a locally driven and supported plan of action so that when the Illinois Department of Transportation or other transportation agencies make decisions about how Ill. 394/Ill. 1 is to be upgraded and improved in the future, they use this vision as the basis for moving forward.

SSMMA will host two public input meetings during the planning process. Please check ssmma.org for dates and times. Feel free to contact Tom Vander Woude, SSMMA’s deputy executive director of transportation, at thomas.vanderwoude@ssmma.org or Chris Poshek, SSMMA’s GIS planner, at chris.poshek@ssmma.org.

Ed Paesel is executive director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association. The opinions are the writer's.

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