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Elgin, Ill., group studying future of transportation

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Continuing talks on making the area more environmentally friendly focused Tuesday night on expanding the use of trains, buses and bicycles countywide, according to the Elgin Courier News, The Elgin, Ill., Community Network hosted a discussion at Gail Borden Public Library that looked at the future of transportation in the area. Among those attending were representatives from Metra, Kane County Division of Transportation and Schaumburg-based engineering firm TranSystems, the company contracted to draft the city's Bikeway Master Plan.

Metra New Starts Project
Leader David Kralik presented residents with the commuter train system’s plans
to expand service throughout the suburbs, including the creation of the
country’s first suburb-to-suburb line that would connect Joliet to O’Hare
International Airport. He said increased growth in the suburbs over the past
several years made it necessary to re-think the concept of commuter travel
throughout the region.

"We’re seeing a lot
more job growth in the suburbs," Kralik said. "And we need a better
system in order to be able to connect where people are at in the suburbs and
where they live to the jobs that they want to go to in the suburbs."

Called the Suburban
Transit Access Route, or STAR Line, the 55-mile route would go through
Plainfield, Naperville and Aurora and through Hoffman Estates at the sprawling
Prairie Stone commercial park, running along 36 miles of railroad tracks — the
former Elgin, Joliet and Eastern tracks now owned by Canadian National Railway.

Other proposed expansion
plans would include extending Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line to provide
service to eastern McHenry County and western Lake County; increasing service
on the Union Pacific West Line that connects Chicago to Elburn; and the
proposed creation of a new Southeast Service line to serve the southeast
suburbs. Still in the conceptual stages, Kralik said, it could be eight to 10
years before the either of the two new lines are in service.

Increased train service
was an option that Kane County Deputy Director of Transportation Steven Coffinbargar
said would have to be examined to address the likely traffic congestion that
will come if the county’s population grows as projected from 404,000 to more
than 710,000 by 2030.

He said even if road
improvements totaling an estimated $3.3 billion are done, that still would fall
far short of addressing the problem.

"Traffic congestion
is something we have to think about differently," Coffinbargar said.
"We can’t build our way out of traffic congestion, so we need to look at
other alternatives to reduce traffic congestion."

Suggested alternatives
would implement road improvements along major roads such as Route 38 and
Randall Road to make Pace buses more accessible. The goal would be to reduce
the presence of motor vehicles on the road, a concept that has been behind
Elgin’s plans since 2007 to establish a citywide network of bike routes.

TranSystems Vice
President Brian Fairwood provided updates on the progress of the Bikeway Master
Plan, approved in March 2008, that would establish a grid system to place a
bike route approximately every four blocks or half-mile. So far, he said, two
of the four routes proposed have been funded up to 80 percent through federal
grants, with both expected to be completed by 2013.

The meeting was part of a
the city’s Sustainable City Master Plan — a guideline to make Elgin a more
environmentally friendly community, with recommendations for infrastructure
improvements, community development and changes to current zoning laws and
procedures from a number of subcommittees covering each major topic that
touches on sustainability.

ECN vice president Bill
Werst said there is no time frame for when the transportation committee would
submit its findings, but rather its purpose is to maintain an ongoing dialogue
with the city to address issues as they become present.

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