Prairie Parkway

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The Prairie Parkway is a proposed transportation project by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to connect Interstate 80 to Interstate 88 in the outer western and southwestern suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.


Corridor protection[edit]

In July 2002 a planning corridor from I-80 near Minooka to I-88 near Elburn was protected from development in Grundy, Kendall and Kane counties under Illinois' Corridor Protection Act.

A legal challenge to the state's Corridor Protection Act for the Prairie Parkway was unanimously rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court. This decision was later appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case.[1]

On November 28, 2007, IDOT announced a revised Corridor Protection Map was recorded that superseded the original map. The new Corridor Protection Map follows the B5 freeway corridor.

Preliminary engineering study[edit]

A study was started in 2003 to examine transportation issues and possible solutions in roughly the same area as the corridor.

A report within the study indicated that, by the year 2030, there would be significant population growth in the study area and most of the area's roads would be congested as a result. Three counties in the study area - Will, Kendall and Kane - were among the 100 fastest-growing counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2004. As a possible solution to the area's traffic problems, a number of alternatives were considered, including widening existing roads, new freeways, traffic management techniques, and transit extensions.

In October 2005 IDOT presented three options for further study:

1. A "no build" alternative consisting of planned improvements to IL 47 and WiKaDuKe Trail independent of building a new Prairie Parkway freeway.

2. A "build" alternative consisting of the 34-mile (55 km) B2 freeway corridor paralleling IL 47 to the west, connecting to I-88 northeast of Kaneville and connecting to I-80 west of Morris, plus upgrading a 12-mile (19 km) segment of IL 47 from Caton Farm Road to Morris.

3. A "build" alternative consisting of the 37-mile (60 km) B5 freeway corridor, connecting to I-88 northeast of Kaneville, diverting to the east crossing IL 47 south of Yorkville, and connecting to I-80 west of Minooka, plus upgrading a 12-mile (19 km) segment of IL 47 from Caton Farm Road to Morris.

Federal highway bill[edit]

In 2005 Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, championed a $207-million earmark inserted in an omnibus highway bill that required federal funds be used on the Prairie Parkway.[2][3][4] The Sunlight Foundation accused Hastert of failing to disclose that the construction of the highway would benefit a land investment that Hastert and his wife made in nearby land in 2004 and 2005. Hastert took an unusually active role advancing the bill, even though it was opposed by a majority of area residents and by the Illinois Department of Transportation.[5] The bill was supported by all 19 members of Illinois' congressional delegation as well as the state's U.S. Senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama.

The law garnered a large amount of bipartisan support, though support was not unanimous, particularly among those who believed it to be laden with too much pork barrel spending. Early versions of the bill budgeted over $300 billion, but President George W. Bush promised to veto any surface transportation bill costing more than $256 billion. When the speaker became frustrated by negotiations with White House staff, Hastert began working on the bill directly with President Bush.[5] Eventually a compromise of $284 billion was reached, and signed into law by the President.[6] After passage the President even traveled to Hastert’s district for the law’s signing ceremony before thousands of workers in a Caterpillar Inc. factory.[2]

Four months later Hastert sold the land for a 500% profit.[5] Hastert’s net worth went from $300,000 to at least $6.2 million.[5] Hastert received five-eighths of the proceeds of the sale of the land, turning a $1.8 million profit in under two years.[3][4][7] Hastert's ownership interest in the tract was not a public record because the land was held by a blind land trust, Little Rock Trust No. 225.[2] There were three partners in the trust: Hastert, Thomas Klatt, and Dallas Ingemunson. However, public documents only named Ingemunson, who was the Kendall County Republican Party chairman and Hastert's personal attorney and longtime friend.[2][7] Hastert denied any wrongdoing.[3] In October 2006, Norman Ornstein and Scott Lilly wrote that the Prairie Parkway affair was "worse than FoleyGate" and called for Hastert's resignation.[5]

Environmental Impact Statement[edit]

In November 2006, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project was released.

In February 2008, the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the project was released.

The federal Record of Decision approving the project was signed on September 19, 2008. Friends of the Fox River and Citizens Against the Sprawlway filed a lawsuit on March 25, 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for violating Federal law in how it approved the Prairie Parkway project.[8]

Preferred alternative chosen[edit]

On June 1, 2007, the Illinois Department of Transportation announced the selection of B5 as the final route, which will run about 4 miles (6.4 km) west of IL 47 and then turn southeast and terminate on I-80 near Minooka, Illinois. IL 47 would also be widened from Caton Farm Road to I-80.

Construction of the segment from U.S. Route 30 to Illinois Route 71 was previously programmed by IDOT.[9]

However, IDOT's FY 2010-2015 Proposed Highway Improvement Plan released in 2009 included funds for preliminary engineering and land acquisition only.[10]

Voters in five townships oppose Prairie Parkway in advisory referenda[edit]

In April 2007 voters in two Kane County townships, Kaneville and Big Rock, overwhelmingly opposed the Prairie Parkway in advisory referenda. In February 2008 voters in three Kendall County townships, Fox, Lisbon and Seward, followed suit.[11]

Tollway proposal[edit]

Kendall County board chairwoman Anne Vickery has requested that the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority take over jurisdiction of the Prairie Parkway from IDOT.[12]

Construction funding dropped from state highway plans[edit]

In April 2009, Congressman Bill Foster (D-14th) has indicated he will try to move some of the Prairie Parkway funding to other projects.[13] In May 2009 the Illinois Department of Transportation dropped all construction funding for the Prairie Parkway from its 2010-2015 Highway Improvement Program, the funding blueprint for future highway projects. IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig cited litigation and a lack of local consensus as the reason construction funding was removed from the plan. The previous Highway Improvement Program (2009-2014) allocated $207 million for engineering, land acquisition, and construction.

However, $0.9 million for "P.E. Soils" and $1.5 million for "Land Acquisition" was included in the IDOT 2010-2015 program for the Prairie Parkway.[14]

Renewed push for Prairie Parkway from area officials[edit]

A group of area governmental and labor officials including Kane County board chairwoman Karen McConnaughay, Kendall County board chairwoman Anne Vickery, Grundy County board chairman Frank Halpin, Yorkville mayor Valerie Burd, Plano mayor Bob Hausler, Sugar Grove village president Sean Michels, Chicago AFL-CIO President Dennis Gannon and others met with IL Governor Pat Quinn's staff to renew the local push to complete the Prairie Parkway project. Referring to Rep. Foster's attempt to de-fund the project, Vickery stated "Mr. Foster seems to be driven by a very small faction of people who are against the Parkway. There is a much broader group of people who are interested in this transportation corridor."[15]

Future connectivity with other projects[edit]

An outer loop highway around the perimeter of the Chicago area has been in conceptual planning for over 100 years. The 1909 "Plan of Chicago", authored by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett, included an "outer encircling highway" with a western portion roughly approximating the Prairie Parkway route. The Illiana Expressway, which is currently in planning by the states of Indiana and Illinois, would connect Interstate 55 to Interstate 65 and its routing would roughly approximate the southern portion of the outer encircling highway concept. A short connection between the Prairie Parkway and Illiana would result in a continuous connecting route of approximately 100 miles from Interstate 88 to Interstate 65 around the western and southern suburbs of Chicago. All three projects (Prairie Parkway, Illiana, and an I-55 to I-80 connector) are included in Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's Go to 2040 regional plan, although none of them are listed as priority projects for this planning period.[16][17]

Federal Approval of Record of Decision Rescinded[edit]

On August 22, 2012, the Federal Highway Administration rescinded its approval of the Record of Decision. The 2007 Corridor Protection remained in place.

Future exits[edit]


  1. ^ "Strike three for Prairie Parkway opponents", Oswego Ledger-Sentinel, June 8, 2006
  2. ^ a b c d Matea Gold & Anu Narayanswamy, How Dennis Hastert made a fortune in land deals, The Washington Post (May 29, 2015).
  3. ^ a b c Melissa McNamara, Speaker Hastert's Land Deal Questioned, CBS/Associated Press (June 22, 2006).
  4. ^ a b Paul Merrion, Group claims Hastert benefited from highway bill, Crain's Chicago Business (June 14, 2006).
  5. ^ a b c d e Norman Ornstein & Scott Lilly, Worse than FoleyGate, New Republic (October 13, 2006) (reprinted by the Center for American Progress).
  6. ^ "Compromise Highway Bill Completed After Two-Year Clash." In CQ Almanac 2005, 61st ed., 18-3-18-7. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2006.
  7. ^ a b James Kimberly & Andrew Zajac, From the archives: How Hastert benefited from real estate sale, Chicago Tribune (June 18, 2006).
  8. ^ Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  9. ^ "Parkway Headed to Minooka", Joliet Herald News, page A1, 2007-06-02
  10. ^ [1] IDOT FY 2010-2015 Proposed Highway Improvement Plan]
  11. ^ [2]"Prairie Parkway scorned by voters', Aurora Beacon-News, Feb. 6, 2008
  12. ^ [3]"Kendall's Priority? Boosting ailing economy", Aurora Beacon News, January 17, 2009]
  13. ^ [4]"Prairie Parkway project may be stalled", Ottawa Daily Times, April 20, 2009]
  14. ^ [5]"IDOT's road plan focuses on maintaining status quo", Daily Herald, May 20, 2009
  15. ^ "Officials make renewed push for Parkway project", Kendall County Record, November 5, 2009
  16. ^ Burnham, Daniel and Bennet, Edward, "Plan of Chicago", Commercial Club of Chicago, 1909
  17. ^ "Regional Mobility: Go to 2040 Regional Plan", Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, October 13, 2010

External links[edit]