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  • Megann Horstead

RUSH continues pursuit of safer roadways in Will County


Highway safety advocates in Will County are continuing their push to promote change on roadways both great and small.

The group Residents United for Safer Highways recently hosted the fourth of its series of informational public forums.

The event, moderated by Scott Slocum of RUSH, addressed a number of Will County transportation issues in terms of growth in population, developments and vehicular miles traveled.

Nick Palmer, chief of staff for the Office of Will County Executive, the county is looking to approach transportation and infrastructure issues better and smarter.

“We’re looking at innovative technologies because that will help us qualify for federal money,” he said.

Palmer acknowledged that funding is limited and said prioritization will be key.

“We have to balance the growth,” he said. “Will County is not going to get any smaller.”

Will County’s population has grown over the years.

Between 2000 and 2010, Will County grew by 35%, officials said. During the same time frame, the Chicago region grew by 4%.

Between 2005 and 2018, vehicle miles traveled in Will County grew by more than 1 billion, officials said. During the same time period, vehicle miles traveled in the state of Illinois increased by 204 million.

Mary Tyler, of Illinois Economic Policy Institute, said it’s worth noting how the growth in warehouse, distribution and industrial use is attracting and producing added truck traffic.

A presentation shown during the forum shows truck traffic growth is expected to grow through 2040 by 41 % outbound, 71% inbound, 114% inter-county and 65% through-traffic.

“This is a huge amount of growth that Will County has seen, has already seen and is expected to continue to see,” Tyler said. “If we’re looking at population and if we’re looking at industry and employment, they’re all going to increase. These are all major factors that really contribute to increased traffic growth and that increase in demand on your transportation network.”

Slocum turned to reference the state of Illinois’ Rebuild Illinois capital improvement program, saying it doesn’t fully address the problems that exist on Will County roadways.

“$1.2 million is a lot, but I’m certainly not thrilled with the plan,” he said. “It seems to be more of a band-aid than a permanent solution. It is not the type of road that will be viable for the next 40 or 50 years.”

Marc Poulos, of the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, credited the work of elected officials for playing a part in Will County’s gains from the Illinois Rebuild plan.

Palmer touted the Will County ‘Community Friendly’ Freight Mobility Plan, which was completed in 2017.

“Many of the projects that were funded in the capital bill are in this plan and there’s more to come,” he said.

Palmer said the county has a goal to establish more formal, reasonable system for truck routing.

“Some of that is done by targeting development in areas that are better supported by transportation infrastructure,” he said.

Slocum urged those at the event to make contact with their elected officials to get them to understand the design changes that are still needed for Interstate-80.

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