Online Staff Report
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) met with Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Ann Schneider and Illinois Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur March 26 on the status of numerous state projects for the City of Rockford. Morrissey said he left the meeting encouraged by the progress and efforts on current and future projects.
“Gov. (Pat) Quinn, Secretary Schneider and Executive Director Lafleur have supported numerous projects for the City of Rockford,” Morrissey said. “They know that Rockford’s effort to build and compete in a 21st century economy depends on outstanding transportation infrastructure.
“Our citizens and businesses will all benefit from a record level of transportation investment in Rockford on both the state highway and tollway systems as well as new passenger rail service,” Morrissey said. “Over the next three years, these investments will create hundreds of jobs as we modernize our central city state highway systems, restore passenger train service, and expand and rebuild our tollway connection to Chicago.”
The focus of the transportation strategy meeting was to share project status for major highway and bridge reconstruction efforts that are being funded and implemented by the State of Illinois and City of Rockford collaboratively, along with the Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) Rebuilding and Widening Project.
Projects that are currently under way and slated for 2013 and 2014 construction include the following:
• Rebuilding South Main Street from the airport to downtown Rockford;
• Building the Main and Auburn roundabout;
• Completing the planning and engineering for the rebuilding of North Main Street from Auburn to Riverside;
• Rebuilding the Morgan Street bridge; and
• Rebuilding and widening the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) from Elgin to Rockford.
Also discussed at length was the progress to restore Amtrak service from Chicago to Rockford and Dubuque, Iowa.
Schneider said: “Gov. Quinn and I are very excited about the upcoming state highway projects being built in the City of Rockford through the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, and we share Mayor Morrissey’s vision of delivering projects that modernize the transportation system as well as catalyze neighborhood and economic development by delivering context-sensitive design and complete street amenities, such as landscaping, lighting and pedestrian systems where none existed before.”
Schneider gave Morrissey an overview of Illinois’ new long-range transportation plan, “Transforming Transportation for Tomorrow.” With a vision toward a sustainable, ecofriendly and economically supportive multi-modal transportation network for Illinois, the Transforming Transportation for Tomorrow plan focuses on further developing a coordinated and integrated transportation system network including roadways, bicycle and pedestrian systems, freight rail, public transit, intercity passenger train service, aviation, and waterways and ports.
Steve Ernst, executive director of the Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, said, “As we develop our Sustainability Plan for the Rockford Region, I was very pleased with IDOT’s long-range transportation vision and how it integrates so well with our regional long-range planning efforts.”
One of Morrissey’s primary concerns prior to the meeting was the status on restoring Amtrak passenger rail service. While design for the new Amtrak train station on South Main Street will begin in approximately 30 days, rail line upgrades to the Canadian National railroad have been stalled. Schneider assured Morrissey that progress was being made and there was full support from the governor and federal transportation officials.
Schneider said: “The governor and I are committed to re-establishing train service between Chicago and Rockford. It is one of our top transportation priorities. We have procured new trains for the Rockford service, to be built locally in Rochelle by Nippon Sharyo, and we remain steadfast in our goal to restore train service to Rockford by the end of 2015.”
Lafleur also added that as part of the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway Rebuilding and Widening Project, roadway and shoulder lanes will be rebuilt and sized to accommodate transit service between Chicago and Rockford, allowing for increased transit opportunities and quicker commute times. Morrissey and Lafleur also committed to an ongoing planning dialogue and discussion regarding public transit expansion on the tollway and about the potential to get a train connection between Rockford and O’Hare airports.
Lafleur said, “Mayor Morrissey and the Illinois Tollway share the same goal of increasing collaboration and opening dialogue between transportation agencies and communities we serve to plan for a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport and Chicago.”
Carl Towns, a Rockford resident and member of the Illinois Tollway Board of Directors, participated in the meeting and shared his support for the ongoing planning effort between the two agencies.
Towns said, “The Illinois Tollway’s model for success has been to work in collaboration with local governments and communities, so we appreciate Mayor Morrissey’s willingness to join with IDOT and the Tollway to improve the transportation network serving Northern Illinois.”
Morrissey concluded: “Our partnerships with IDOT and the Illinois Tollway are strong and growing. I am eager to get these important projects under construction, get people to work and grow our local economy.”
Posted March 29, 2013