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Chicagoguy May 26, 2008 8:25 PM

3rd Airport
There has been alot of talk on the new big 3rd airport here in Chicago? Does anyone know of the expansion project that is being done at Gary/Chicago International? I think this will be great to have a 3rd large airport in the city. It is in a great area for another airport and since this one already has longer runways than Midway and it is on a bigger plot of land than Midway, I think this will be great. I believe they start their first air service in June. I saw plans of what they are planning to do to the airport and it is really awesome. Their plans are to incorporate trains, planes, and buses on one large terminal. They plan to have an express train to O Hare to help with connecting flights and have an amtrak stop, as well as some form of a CTA stop there as well. Here are the pictures of the future plans for Gary/Chicago International. Does anyone else know of any other information about it?

ardecila May 26, 2008 9:27 PM


Originally Posted by aaron38 (Post 3575298)
Rt. 53 plan is dead … or is it?
State road builders say extending Route 53 north is officially on the shelf after decades of failed attempts to get the massive project built.
"Right now we … don't have any money for it," says Tom Murtha, transportation planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
Still, this often tried -- and failed -- project to cut Northwest suburban congestion appears to have life as the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority looks at reviving the plan, and some say it just needs more clout to really get off the ground.

Any delay on this is good news, as I think this is a bad project. Also, with gas skyrocketing, they need to wait and re-evaluate the traffic, because I don't think it's going to grow like they think it is.
And another interstate and new big box stripmalls entirely dependent on the car is just stupid.
We're trying to get the suburban cores redeveloped around the Metra stations, and the last thing we need is a new interstate pulling development north into empty tracts of Lake County.

I've recently begun to take a more balanced view of transit expansion vs. new roads, at least in certain situations (i.e. I'm against the Prairie Parkway, which runs through completely undeveloped areas, ick).

However, I'm glad the 53 extension isn't dead. IDOT already owns somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3 of the land required. If you look on Google Earth, you can see a wide swath of empty land running through established subdivisions, which was set aside years ago. If IDOT decided to widen existing roads, then all of that land purchase would be in vain. They would have to start all over, purchasing developed land from property owners along those roads, and re-paving, creating a problematic traffic mess as they repave all those roads.

The traffic congestion in Lake County and auto-dependence is ALREADY bad enough to warrant a new highway. Also, shifting large amounts of traffic onto a grade-separated highway will reduce tremendously the pollution caused by thousands of idling cars, and reduce congestion on the Tri-State. Finally, I don't know what "undeveloped areas" you're talking about... the only significant areas of undeveloped land are just west of Libertyville, and a good portion of that is owned by the Lake County Forest Preserve District as "open space", or owned for landfill expansion.

One more thing: expanding transit service into Lake County is gonna have to involve bus use. Building whole new rail lines is near impossible, and the only existing rail line (the EJ&E) doesn't run near anything. On the other hand, a highway would allow a future suburban BRT network to be set up, which would serve the suburbs way better than rail.

VivaLFuego May 27, 2008 3:09 AM


Originally Posted by Markitect (Post 3575403)
Also, hasn't there been some testing going on along segments of the Chicago-St. Louis route using the North American Joint Positive Train Control system that would permit trains to run above 79mph?

IIRC, the Illinois FIRST program had some money in it for such testing, but I don't remember reading anything other than press releases touting the project; never heard of any actual construction, let alone implementation/testing. I know that was supposed to be a high-priority corridor for Midwest High-Speed Rail, to improve or otherwise eliminate grade crossings and install cab signaling for 110mph operation most of the length to STL.

VivaLFuego May 27, 2008 3:12 AM


Eventually...Chicago May 27, 2008 3:44 AM

My objection to the rt. 53 extension (besides the usual, lets spend more money on public transit) is that it runs right through some heavily wooded areas. Long grove in their stupidity is not particularly protecting some of their greatest assets (there is a menards going in at hicks and lake cook). If there were to be an extension there would be a ton of developers looking to rape the hell out of the land.

Also, i think this would draw more development northwest towards places like lake zurich and hawthorn woods which are (despite the mcmansions that are there) very nice natural areas.

The lake cook termination has done a pretty good job of keeping development compact. It still is mostly (all) sprawl along lake cook going east or west, but at least it isn't going north from that point.

I think this is the problem with highway extensions. If it were just a transportation thing and no land use would follow, only traffic reduction, i would consider it. As it happened with the 355 extension, build the highway and some piece of shit developer is going to buy 100 acres right next to it to clear and pave.

Marcu May 27, 2008 5:19 AM

^The region should finish this much needed bypass and then halt new major highway construct for at least 50 years (including prairie pkwy) while focusing on transit, proper planning, etc. The extension, however, is badly needed just to support current population levels and is a natural conclusion of the second bypass around Chicagoland (tristate being the first). It would serve as the northern equivilent of 355 extension and top off a fairly comprehensive regional highway system.

ardecila May 27, 2008 6:02 AM

I wondered about the Menard's construction, too... but I believe the IDOT alignment is to the rear of the property, and will not be built upon. I noticed the other day some little signs on the (2-lane) Route 53 near Long Grove Road that mark the IDOT R.O.W, very subtly.

As for conservation - as I alluded to before, Lake County has an extremely aggressive Forest Preserve District, which has bought pretty much every bit of prairie and forest in the county that isn't being actively farmed, and lots of farmland too. I like the idea of conservation in general, which is one of the FEW things I actually like about living in Lake County, but I don't see too much value in conserving open space if that space isn't opened up to public use.

At any rate, the extent of wetland habitats that will be impacted by this highway has been a little exaggerated... There is only one Forest Preserve property that will need to be built upon (Heron Creek). All the others can be easily avoided, or are little insignificant "green space" preserved in existing subdivisions.

the urban politician May 27, 2008 2:14 PM

Wow, it's amazing how easily a new highway can be built, but building a new transit line is so painstakingly slow and faces so many obstacles. So unfortunate..

jpIllInoIs May 27, 2008 2:43 PM

This project is not built, and not close to being funded. If they agreed today to build it , A highway might appear by 2012. And there has been no agreement. Secondly, this has not been easy unless you consider a 40 year planning process easy. This was conceived in the 1960's and the state began buying land and continues to do so. Hawthorne Woods and Long Grove have been the main opponents, and recently Mundelien, because they built a subdivision that will be traversed by the road.

In the 1980's a majority of the Lake County board was also opposed to the construction for fear of over development, but guess what? the housing came anyway and now Lake Co has 774,000 people and only one highway on the East end of the county. The housing came but the corporate and logistic facilities did not come because of lakc of access. So the county has many grwing towns without a commercial tax bas. Thus Lake Co board has turned over the players and is now a proponent. There has been the addition of the NorthCentral Metra line which has helped with travel to OHare and Chicago.

I dont think this issue will get a positive take from this forum, but this actually is good infrastructure for the entire region. It is an unfinished link in the overall transit plan of the Tristate area. And it should be built as a tollway so users pay most of the costs.

VivaLFuego May 27, 2008 3:45 PM

^Concur. I think if both:
1) this is a tollway, and thus self-funding
and 2) it is accompanied by a sensible and binding corridor land use plan (e.g. density nodes at interchanges, provision for various transit/ped facilities, etc.)

then it could be a positive development. Otherwise, it's just another sprawlway, albeit a big step up from the Prairie Parkway travesty.

Abner May 27, 2008 4:15 PM


Originally Posted by ardecila (Post 3576539)
I don't see too much value in conserving open space if that space isn't opened up to public use.

Why on earth not? The environmental reasons for doing it are if anything more compelling when the land won't be available for public use.

I see a road expansion like this as being a little bit of a moral hazard problem... People move into an area that doesn't have the infrastructure to support them because they know they can get partially bailed out with a new road. New interstates encourage sprawl regardless of whether they lead or trail the new development.

VivaLFuego May 27, 2008 5:19 PM

^ a toll road largely avoid that moral hazard, as the people whose presence necessitates the road would be the ones paying for its construction and maintenance.

Abner May 27, 2008 6:09 PM

Yeah, it would be best to build it as a tollway, although obviously toll roads don't make drivers internalize all the costs they make everybody incur. Just wondering, would the construction of a toll road in this case be financed exclusively by a special tax in Lake County?

Eventually...Chicago May 27, 2008 6:11 PM


nice find on the extension map.

I agree that the actual road construction itself doesn't affect a great deal of natural areas, it is the secondary development that i'm very concerned with.

when the 355 extension was a year or so away from completion i got to see some of the HUGE big box retail developments that are proposed for anything within a mile of a new on-ramp/off-ramp. We are talking about some serious swathes of land, like 100's of acres turned into asphalt prairies. Considering the very high volume of traffic on 53, the pressure on the nature preserves and any surrounding land owners is going to be severe. And developers are going to be ruthless at trying to gain control of that land.

And once one goes down, they all follow...

Eventually...Chicago May 27, 2008 6:23 PM


Originally Posted by jpIllInoIs (Post 3576876)
now Lake Co has 774,000 people and only one highway on the East end of the county.

The fact that the only highway is the tristate has done a very good job at keep growth contained at the east end. Compare how sprawled out the west suburbs and southwest suburbs are along 90, 88, 55. Because of the lack of an expressway, rand road is a pretty good western border for typical suburban development in the area. Once you move more north and west the land becomes quite "natural" If you build this extension, all of a sudden the chain o' lakes area becomes threatened for harmful development.

The best way to contain development is to make it difficult to expand. I always thought that san francisco was a decent example of this. (Mountains to the east keep development compact.) I kind of wish we had a nice western border to the chicago area that we could say, definitively, "no development beyond this point".

For now, keep growing more dense near the tristate and let the west lake county area be.

VivaLFuego May 27, 2008 7:30 PM


Originally Posted by Abner (Post 3577224)
Yeah, it would be best to build it as a tollway, although obviously toll roads don't make drivers internalize all the costs they make everybody incur. Just wondering, would the construction of a toll road in this case be financed exclusively by a special tax in Lake County?

Well, in an ideal world, a tollroad authority might pay some sort of "offset" in compensation for environmental impacts, the cost of which is then passed on the tollroad users whose tolls also pay for construction, maintenance, policing, etc. Aside from the environmental offsets, we aren't too far from this (Illinois Tollway ISTHA does, I believe, contract the Illinois State Police, for example, and receives no state tax revenue).

Presumably, land acquisition and road construction would be financed by a bond issue backed by future expected toll revenues, i.e. like most toll roads. Land acquisition via eminent domain or otherwise, along with necessary easements and so on, would be authorized by the various levels of government via a concession (just like how the Ls were built by private operators, way back when). The beauty of toll roads, toll rails ("transit"), etc: no tax involved, and heck, the government can even make money by selling the concession.

To the extent there would be cross-subsidization, it would be by other users of the same toll road system. Again in an ideal world, the toll road entity would only pursue expansion where it would improve their overall balance sheet, thus avoiding any excess capacity that would drain maintenance expense and necessitate higher tolls, thereby lowering demand, etc. That is to say, the tollway authority would generally have the same incentive as its users in avoiding too much cross-subsidization..

Of course, ISTHA's board is packed with political hacks, which is why tolls are historically set too low to even properly maintain the system let alone expand it. In practice, ISTHA is only marginally better than the state and federal highway systems (conveyances of pork) due to its political nature of having a politicized board and having a monopoly on road-privatization (with exception of the Skyway), but I'll take the progress where available.

Eventually...Chicago May 27, 2008 10:15 PM

^^^^ myself being a generally anti-high capacity road way person, i actually have to agree with you.

I think your key statement is when you say "the toll road entity would only pursue expansion where it would improve their overall balance sheet" Which would translate into building in areas where traffic already exists, rather than building in areas and then creating traffic.

If all of our highway system was built with this idea in mind, they would be the drain on our inner cities that they are now. With the politically motivated system behind highway construction, new roadways are built where they are politically desired. Thus they end up being the "first ones in" to places that have no business having a roadway of that capacity.

If our highway system were built as a more reactive system (high capacity roads get built where high demand exists) instead of a proactive system (high capacity roads get built to try to create demand) we probably wouldn't have the mess we have now.

Since politics isn't going to go away anytime soon, though, i find it easier just to hate all highways. :)

OhioGuy May 27, 2008 10:31 PM

Decibel point: Does L pose risk to hearing?


TRANSPORTATION | Loud train noise -- and some methods to block it -- puts hearing in jeopardy

May 27, 2008
BY MARY WISNIEWSKI Transportation Reporter

It's the background music of Chicago life -- the rattle and roar of the L.

Conversation pauses, dogs bark, little children cover their ears as the train rolls by. On the train, riders turn up their iPods to drown it out.

Most Chicagoans accept the clatter as a cost of urban living -- some even like it.

"The noise doesn't bother me," said Colleen Kalafut, 24, of Lincoln Park, waiting for a train at Fullerton.

But Dr. Robyn R. M. Gershon, professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University in New York, said train noise is an under-recognized public health problem that causes stress and threatens hearing, and the use of personal music devices makes the problem worse.

"Every rider -- especially frequent riders, especially the elderly and children -- is vulnerable," said Gershon, who studied the New York subway in 2006.

Illinois Masonic audiologist Carrie Birdwell doesn't worry about short exposures to passing trains.

But she agrees that "it probably would not be the worst idea, if you ride the subway, to get some earplugs."

Loudest L noise, inside and out
The Chicago Sun-Times measured CTA train noise using an audio meter. Peak levels were measured at each platform as trains came and left.

Parts of the Blue and Red Line subways and parts of the Pink Line L track had readings of more than 100 decibels -- comparable to a chain saw.

The highest reading -- 109.2 decibels -- was taken at the Thorndale Red Line station as an express train passed. Most platforms registered between 90 and 100 decibels, comparable to a lawn mower. The Dempster platform on the Purple Line was a conversation-friendly 80.1 decibels, the quietest.

Inside trains, levels were usually below 90, except on the subway, where levels hit above 90 between most stations. The highest in-train reading was 105 between the North/Clybourn and Clark/Division subway stations on the Red Line.

"I wasn't aware the levels were that high," said Rick Harris, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, which represents train workers.

Harris knows of some workers who have experienced hearing loss, though it isn't an "epidemic," he said.

Sources of the sound
Speed is a big factor affecting the level of sound, according to Steve Thunder, an engineer with Acoustic Associates in Palatine. Off-peak trains were sometimes louder than rush-hour trains because motormen came into stations quickly.

In downtown subway stations, noise is reduced by acoustic wall panels.

Subway stations without soundproofing tend to be louder than L platforms, and trains traveling on elevated steel track tend to be louder than trains rolling on the ground.

The L isn't as loud as it used to be, and will be quieter in the future, said Jack Hruby, CTA's vice president of transit operations.

The CTA started using noise-dampening rings on wheels in the 1970s, and they're now on all trains.

The CTA also smoothes wheels and rails and adds a thin coat of grease to reduce noise.

A 1974 Northwestern University study of the Brown Line bore out Hruby's claim that the L is quieter -- in-train noise used to go up to 115 decibels. One factor is that the windows used to open.

The CTA is currently installing rubber-insulated tie plates at some locations, and fixing plates directly into a concrete bed, rather than into a rail tie. Wooden ties are being replaced with ties made from recycled tires.

Earplugs, not iPods
There may be a limit to how quiet the L can get, because the wheels are steel. By contrast, Montreal's system uses rubber tires.

Since changing the infrastructure isn't feasible, Gershon recommends ear protection.

Audiologists agree that the worst thing riders can do is turn up music players to drown out the L -- since this increases volume and exposure time.

"When I see it on the train, I just shake my head," Birdwell said.
This is just an assumption on my part, but I'm thinking the CTA rail system is probably the loudest in the country? I'm not exactly sure how SEPTA and the MBTA compare, but it's hard for me to imagine any other system in this country being louder than the L.

ardecila May 27, 2008 11:14 PM


Originally Posted by Eventually...Chicago (Post 3577632)
If our highway system were built as a more reactive system (high capacity roads get built where high demand exists) instead of a proactive system (high capacity roads get built to try to create demand) we probably wouldn't have the mess we have now.

I don't see at all how the 53 expansion is proactive. It addresses existing traffic needs in an already heavily-trafficked corridor, running from the existing terminus of the grade-separated portion of 53 to the Libertyville/Gurnee area and north.

The development is ALREADY there. Every time I drive down 83 or 176 or Milwaukee or Peterson, I see more strip malls, subdivisions, industrial parks, and even huge Bolingbrook-style warehouses being built. The fact is that development has progressed in this part of Lake County without any major highways. For an even more extreme example, look at McHenry County. Absolutely no grade-separated highways of any kind (except a short stretch of I-90 in the SW corner), yet development proceeds at a frenzied pace.

What's needed to reduce sprawl is not to halt suburban freeway construction - nothing of the sort. It requires either a strong regional planning drive with urban growth boundaries or something similar (like in Portland), or a major shift in the economics of exurban construction that makes this stuff unprofitable. Halting freeway construction doesn't change the economics enough to halt development, but instead increases smog and travel times and reduces quality of life.

You talk about highways being reactive - infrastructure projects are pretty much always reactive now. The days of empty highways running through cornfields are coming to an end, despite the best wishes of Dennis Hastert. For some real change, we need what VivaLFuego suggested - a highly proactive highway plan that encourages dense nodes around exits and maybe even some form of bus transit.

Take a look here for some of the development that's planned in Northern Lake County, with or without the 53 extension. Lindenhurst Village Green and Lakemoor Village Centre create walkable downtown districts for their respective communities, and Wildflowers/Tall Grass at Prairie Grove are more walkable style developments a little further west.

VivaLFuego May 28, 2008 12:06 AM

^ Right. And ISTHA, in theory, would only pursue building the IL-53 extension if the expected traffic demand at the expected toll charge could support the interest on the bond issue to construct the thing. The quasi-political nature of ISTHA makes that an unreliable proposition however: witness the 1980s and 1990s, with tolls kept too low and revenue used for building I-355 rather than maintaining the existing system to the point where it all crumbled and was at full capacity (necessitating the current ~$5 billion program).

My oft-repeated line is that I'm all for cars, roadways, off-street parking, etc. (being a driving enthusiast myself) as long as drivers pay the cost of their actions. Heck, shopowners can even bundle off-street parking if they choose. The problem is when public policy either encourages or outright mandates that vehicle operation and storage be underpriced and therefore overconsumed, as is the case throughout the US. Transit gets a very decent mode share for trips with a tollroad component and/or substantial off-street parking charges (when a transit option is available of course), both of which trigger major elasticity in auto demand. That holds even in uncongested conditions. And in congested conditions, we now have the technology to do variable tolling, which opens a world of possibilities (and by all means, variable fares based on load levels can and should be applied to transit systems as well).

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