CNU Board and Illinois DOT Meet in Chicago

Chris McCahill's picture
Dept. Sec. Ashmore and CNU President Norquist

When it comes to urban design issues, the Illinois Department of Transportation may not have the best track record. The department has recently come under fire for blocking the construction of protected bike lanes and pushing for what many consider to be a misguided highway project in the heart of Chicago.  

However, DOT officials understand that times are changing and they're working hard to adapt. In their recently updated Long Range State Transportation Plan they place greater emphasis on multi-modal transportation, public input and sustainability. While the long range plan offers a sense of vision, the question still remains as to what tools are needed and what steps must be taken to achieve that vision.

This has been part of the motivation behind a growing partnership between the Illinois DOT and the Congress for the New Urbanism -- headquartered in Chicago. DOT officials, including Secretary Ann Schneider, have taken time to meet with CNU about urban design issues and CNU hopes that DOT will take their message to heart. As part of this effort to share ideas, CNU recently hosted a workshop on Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares, which more than two-dozen DOT employees attended. But there is still a long way to go.

On March 8, two top officials from DOT -- Deputy Secretary Andre Ashmore and Deputy Director of Planning and Programming Bola Delano -- met with CNU board members to discuss the workshop and the state's long range plan. The two representatives expressed their appreciation for CNU's support and outlined for the board their efforts to better meet the needs of bicycles and pedestrians, balance investments in highway and transit, and work more closely with communities. Among the projects that DOT touted was the Elgin-O'Hare West Bypass, which requires coordination with 27 communities and two counties. One of the next steps, according to Delano, will be putting together a bicycle advisory group and working towards a state bike plan.

While there are still hurdles, the amicable meeting bodes well for the future of DOT and communities throughout Illinois.  Local architect and CNU board member Doug Farr called the meeting a "breath of fresh air."

DOT representative Bola Delano will be joining CNU at the upcoming CNU 21 event in Salt Lake City for a special session on walkable urban thoroughfares.  For a preview of that event and to learn more about their ongoing efforts, you can join Delano and CNU President John Norquist for a Fireside Chat next Friday, March 22.


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