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Cook County’s Transportation Plan – And CrossRail Chicago

September 22, 2014

Cook County has big plans. Or maybe more appropriately a big plan. 

For the first time since the 1940’s, Cook County is releasing a comprehensive transportation plan. After reaching out to stakeholders and the general public, they’ve heard a real desire to improve the area’s transportation options. Cook County is now working to gain more feedback, and devise a transportation plan to fill gaps in the system and spur economic growth and livable communities. 

Last week, Maria Choca-Urban, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of the Cook County Administration was kind enough to share the her administration’s vision with us. 

The Cook County transportation plan will establish concrete goals and elaborate a path for future investments. 

The plan’s overarching goals for transportation include spurring economic opportunity, encouraging accessibility and reliability, improving safety, promoting good land use policies, strengthening environmental stewardship and allowing for strategic implementation. These goals are designed to set a standard for which individual projects should take investment priority. 

They’ve also outlined how to attract investments that meet these needs. The plan’s creators envision eliminating diversions from transportation-related income sources (eg. gas tax) to other programs. They also highlight the need to raise additional revenue, if there is a public demand for it. National surveys have demonstrated that Americans are willing to pay more for better public transit, but Cook County is still trying to gauge interest in the Chicago-area. 

Going forward, Cook County envisions a two-part role in improving transportation options. First they’ll continue to work as an intermediary between different municipalities. In this role they can facilitate new projects that are bigger than just one community. They also aim to play a financial role, by investing in projects that meet their stated goals.

From the perspective of a high-speed rail supporter, the plan is encouraging. The plan itself, which promotes connecting people to jobs and improving intermodal connections, complements MHSRA’s CrossRail Chicago proposal. In fact, at our recent meeting Ms. Choca-Urban mentioned that CrossRail could fill the gaps in the transportation system that the Cook County plan is attempting to address.

 Cook County is also acting as a leading voice for growth. Although they have outlined how to move forward at current funding levels, they’ve also made it clear that much more needs to be done than state-of-good repair projects. At a time when many agencies are not planning for growth, or looking at the big picture, Cook County stands out with their drive to build the transportation infrastructure the region demands.

If you’d like to see a copy of Maria Choca-Urban’s presentation, click here.

And make sure take Cook County’s transportation survey.