Lake County Motorist

Suburban Chicagoland commuter and motorist weblog

Trouble at intersection of funding and safety

The Chicago Tribune’s Jon Hilkevitch posted an update to his March story about the lack of safe, non-motorized ways for suburban children to get to school. According to the May 18 article, the U.S. government has already issued $8.3 million in funding to Illinois for the Safe Routes to School initiative, but the project has stalled. The article raises questions about the importance of transportation initiatives in Illinois.

The state is sitting on the money because it is broke. IDOT is understaffed, and morale there is low. There’s not a high incentive to get this stuff done,” said a transportation source who works on the Safe Routes initiative.

According to Gov. Blagojevich’s March 6 “Safe Routes to School” press release, IDOT has already received grant applications for a total of $77.7 million. The press release also indicates that Illinois “expects to receive roughly $23 million” over a three-year period. $8.3 million of that federal money is already in the State’s hands.

So when will construction begin on these new grant proposed projects? The Tribune article offers this:

Asked where the $8.3 million in federal money is being held, [IDOT spokesperson Mike] Claffey said: “I don’t know where the money is. I’ll check.”

Seriously?

With gas prices high and climbing, the population growth in collar counties, the increasing focus on “green” initiatives and the incessant reporting of obesity rates, wouldn’t it be a good idea to address flexible mobility options and help Illinois become a leader in smart growth?

I hope the State will optimize the $8.3 million that has already been given, and with due diligence allocate the money towards walkability improvements as intended. This isn’t just about schoolchildren; this is about improved access in communities throughout Illinois.

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Filed under: Urban Planning, , ,

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