State Rep. Kay Hatcher said the the federal government’s Aug. 22 decision to withdraw its approval of the Prairie Parkway could mean one less tool to respond to the area's growing need for alternative transportation solutions.
“The Parkway was designed to be limited access, lighten everyday traffic congestion and extend the life of our local highways by siphoning off the heaviest truck traffic,” she said. “There is no question that Route 47 needs work. Maintenance or expansion, however, is not the same as a new roadway.”
But after more than a decade battling the proposed Prairie Parkway, some area citizens breathing a sigh of relief.
The 37-mile-long highway project, proposed in 2001, would have connected I-80 and I-88 in Kane, Kendall, and Grundy counties. In 2005, then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert earmarked $207 million in federal tax dollars for the project. About $70 million in federal and state funds has been spent on the Prairie Parkway so far for need and environmental studies, engineering, and purchase of about 250 acres of land along the proposed route. No actual construction has taken place.
Since the federal government’s action eliminates federal funding for the project, the Illinois Department of Transportation will now shift federal funds previously allocated to the Prairie Parkway to improvements to Illinois 47 and US 34, officials said.
Two area environmental groups, Citizens Against the Sprawlway (CATS) and Friends of the Fox River, ﬁled suit against the Federal Highway Administration, contending that the project review was inadequate. Attorneys from the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago public interest group, represented the groups.
“After an 11-year ﬁght, we have ﬁnally scuttled this highway which would have
destroyed thousands of acres of prime farmland, threatened the Fox River and its tributaries, and forever changed the area’s small community way of life,” said Jan Strasma, chairman of Citizens Against the Sprawlway.
Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, lauded Gov. Quinn’s senior team “for focusing on resolving this long-standing problem and working with us and the Federal Highway Administration on a smart solution."
“This is a better and affordable transportation solution that will improve local roadways, create needed jobs, preserve community values and protect sensitive environmental areas,” he said.
Gary Swick, president of Friends of the Fox River, also heralded the federal government’s decision.
“We are pleased that the project will no longer pose a threat to the water quality of the Fox River, and appreciative to all the partners who have worked for this decision,” he said.
Proponents of the Prairie Parkway plan to celebrate the end of the project at the 11th Annual ‘Stop the Beltway’ Picnic which begins at 4 pm Sunday at the Marvel Davis farm, 47W066 Jericho Road, near Big Rock, about five miles west of Illinois 47.
Yorkville Mayor Gary Golinski said due to the state of the current economy, the Prairie Parkway is hard to justify right now.
“My hope is that they use the allocated funds to benefit the existing north/south corridors that already exist through Yorkville,” he said. “There's no reason that Route 47 shouldn't be four lanes all the way from I-88 to I-80. If the federal and state government can't get that done, then they should grant some of that money to the local municipalities so we can take care of some of our local roadways."