Archive for August, 2011

Home Seminars Promote Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

The City of Aurora is offering monthly seminars to help residents get the best return on their home’s energy efficiency and promote water conservation.

The first workshop series provides residents with information to help reduce their home energy costs, increase comfort and maintain the structural integrity of their home. The program is part of the City’s Aurora GreenWorks Community Education Workshop series and is funded by an U.S. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block federal stimulus grant.

Seminars will be held from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on the following Thursdays:
• Sept. 15, Customer Service Center, 3700 McCoy Drive;
• Oct. 20, Fred Rodgers Community Center, 501 College Ave. (presented in Spanish only);
• Nov. 10, Eola Road Branch Library, 555 S. Eola Road;
• Dec. 15, Fred Rodgers Community Center;
• Jan. 19, 2012, Aurora Police Department, 1200 E. Indian Trail Road;
• Feb. 16, Fred Rodgers Community Center;
Another GreenWorks workshop series will focus on reducing water consumption to save money and protect the environment. Seminar topics will touch on how to conserve water, time and money in the backyard with water efficient landscapes, rain barrels and other green tips. Remaining sessions will be held from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8 at the Fred Rodgers Community Center and Thursday, Oct. 20 at the Customer Service Center.

Attendance at the seminars is free, but pre-registration is requested. To register, call Karen Zilly, Neighborhood Redevelopment Division Development Coordinator, at 630-256-3323. Registration also can be completed online by visiting www.aurora-il.org, clicking on the “Community Services” tab, selecting the “Neighborhood Redevelopment Division” link and then choosing the “Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant Program.”

Future dates for both programs will be announced in the spring.

Illinois Tollway Seeks Input on 15-Year Capital Plan

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The Illinois Tollway has developed and is asking for public comment on a comprehensive 15-year capital plan.  The plan includes projects which complete the rebuilding of the 52-year-old system and commits nearly $12 billion in transportation funding to improve mobility, relieve congestion, reduce pollution and link economies across Northern Illinois.  Work on these capital improvement projects will begin in 2012.

The Tollway has spent the last year getting its fiscal house in order, according to the Tollway’s capital plan highlights, making sure its operations are honest and efficient, and reviewing how to improve its customers’ experience, while contributing to the economic growth of our state and region.

One of Illinois’ greatest assets is its central location and strong transportation system.  While the Tollway has focused on maintaining its current system, numerous communities throughout the region are advocating for new transportation projects with increasing urgency.  Illinois residents, business owners, planners, elected officials and others understand that new roads can improve quality of life by saving people time and money, creating jobs and stimulating local economies.

While the demand for improved transportation is increasing, both federal and state dollars available for transportation are shrinking.  The Tollway receives no state or federal tax dollars for maintenance and operations.  Toll revenues pay for debt service, operation costs and all construction and maintenance of the system.  The system is funded entirely by user fees and only those who use our system pay for it.

The goals of the Illinois Tollway’s 2005 capital program were to rebuild much of the existing system, build the I-355 south extension and implement open road tolling to ease congestion.  That work is now 85 percent complete – with nearly $5 billion in improvements delivered on time and on budget.  The last capital program was financed in part with a toll increase for cash-paying and commercial customers only.  Seventy-five percent of the Tollway’s customers have not had a toll increase since 1983 – 28 years ago.  As a result, the Tollway has the second lowest per-mile rate of any toll road in the nation.

The Tollway’s proposed 2012-2026 capital plan includes rebuilding the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) as a 21st century, state-of-the-art corridor linking Rockford to O’Hare Airport, a new interchange to connect I-294 to I-57 – one of only two places in the nation where interstates cross but do not connect – and a new all-electronic Elgin O’Hare West Bypass that can provide western access to one of the nation’s busiest airports.  In addition, the plan addresses the Tollway’s existing system needs and includes funding for planning studies for the Illinois Route 53 Corridor and the Illiana Expressway.

This capital plan will create more than 120,000 permanent jobs and add $21 billion to the economy.  For every $1 billion of annual construction, more than 13,000 construction-related jobs will be created. And, this capital plan sustains those jobs over the next decade.

Congestion costs the Chicago area between $4 billion and $7 billion annually.  The Tollway’s new capital plan will ensure that the Chicago area remains competitive with other major cities in the U.S. and around the world.  Without an innovative, multi-modal transportation system capable of handling increased travel demand, our regional economy will suffer.

The plan includes a proposed toll rate increase of 35 cents at a typical toll plaza.  With this proposed toll increase, our customers will get a fully rebuilt, state-of-the-art system that will provide better travel conditions, relieve congestion and accommodate the needs of the traveling public well into the 21st century.

Key Facts

  • When the Tollway opened for business in 1958, toll rates were set at 30 cents – just 10 cents less than they are today.  The Tollway currently has the second lowest per-mile toll rate of any toll road in the nation.
  • Seventy-five percent of the Tollway’s customers have not had a toll increase since 1983 – 28 years ago.  No other drivers on toll roads anywhere in the U.S. have gone without a toll increase since 1983.
  • The last time the Tollway adjusted toll rates was in 2005, doubling cash tolls for cars, while leaving the price of electronic tolls unchanged.  This successfully induced electronic toll payments and, today, more than 83 percent of the Tollway’s transactions are electronic.
  • The preliminary plan includes a proposed toll rate increase of 35 cents for electronic tolls at a typical toll plaza.
  • With this increase, the average car trip on the Tollway system for an I-PASS customer would be $1.18 – up from today’s average of 63 cents per trip – an increase of just $2.75 a week or $11.00 a month.
  • With this increase, the Illinois Tollway will rank 29 among all 41 toll road agencies in the U.S. in terms of price – still in the bottom third at an average of just 6 cents per mile.
  • Without a Tollway, the state would need to raise the gas tax by about 9 cents a gallon statewide to cover the maintenance and operation of the Tollway’s existing roads. The tax would need to increase by about 11-12 cents a gallon if the tax was only applied to the Tollway’s 12-county service area.  To fund the infrastructure improvements included in this capital plan, the state would need to raise the gas tax by more than 20 cents a gallon – more than double the current gas tax rate.
  • Forty cents in 1983 is equivalent to 90 cents today.  The proposed new rates are still lower than if they had kept pace with inflation.  The price of a full-sized car has almost tripled and white bread has gone from 54 cents to $1.59.
  • Since April 2010, the Tollway has implemented one-time or multi-year budget cuts of $62.2 million and more than $14 million in annual recurring savings.  The Tollway has eliminated 106 positions in the 2011 budget – a 6 percent cut for a total of 1,598 employees and a 17 percent cut in the Tollway’s workforce since 2002.
  • The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning projects that – collectively – these major projects will reduce vehicle miles traveled in congestion by 1 million miles daily, resulting in savings of more than $775 million annually due to reduced congestion and delays.

Jane Addams Memorial Tollway (I-90) Reconstruction

o  Will save drivers 25 minutes traveling between Elgin and the Kennedy Expressway

o  Will accommodate up to 30,000 more vehicles per day

o  Will save drivers $440 million annually in fuel and productivity costs

Tri-State Tollway (I-294)/I-57 Interchange

o  Will accommodate 76,000 vehicles per day

o  Will save drivers $4 million annually in fuel consumption

o  Tri-State Tollway commuters using I-80 to I-57 will save 25 hours per year

Elgin O’Hare West Bypass

o  Reduce traffic volume on local roads by 17 percent during rush hour – about 10 minutes per one hour trip

o  Will accommodate three times as many vehicles per day as local roads carry now

o  Will save drivers 13 minutes on a five-mile trip from I-290 to York Road

 

A series of public hearings have been schedule for the area and include:

Thursday, August 18

Kane County: Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Bldg A, Geneva, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.

DuPage County: Government Center, 421 N. County Farm Rd., Wheaton, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Will County: Village of New Lenox, 1 Veterans Parkway, New Lenox, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

 

Friday, August 19:

DeKalb County: NIU Convocation Center, 1525 W. Lincoln Highway, DeKalb, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

 

What are your thoughts on the proposal?

***Update: Monday, August 22***
The Tollway has added another opportunity tomorrow for Kane County businesses and residents to speak on the proposed plan.
Tuesday, August 23
7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Montgomery Village Hall
200 N. River Road
Montgomery

Housing Authority Must Show More Transparency

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

In recent weeks, the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce has been asked by several parties to weigh in on the situation surrounding the Aurora Housing Authority’s redevelopment plans for Jericho Circle. As this is an issue of economic and community development, it is of importance to the Aurora Chamber and business community. However, with very few facts available for review, the Chamber’s response at this time is for open communication and improved transparency from all parties.

As this situation has continued to play out in the media — rather than in an open forum — the community’s frustration has grown. At Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting, members of the community were in attendance to voice their frustration with the process. In fact, the words that resonated from the speakers included “open communication,” “frustration,” “trust,” and “skepticism.”

After considerable debate by the Council, the non-binding resolution asking the AHA to slow the process and work collaboratively with the community finally passed. Now is the time to bring interested individuals to the table and show transparency and leadership.

In addition, during our process of analyzing the issue and determining a position, our members generated many questions for the Aurora Housing Authority and the City of Aurora in regard to the planning, process, and development.

Our community cares. It cares about its residents. It cares about its programs. It cares about its future.

There are many stakeholders that need to be involved in this process. The school districts who educate our youth are just the tip of the iceberg. The current residents of the AHA need to be heard. Other service providers within our community have ideas and suggestions for improving our community.

With the passage of the resolution – and in the spirit of moving this process forward, the Aurora Chamber recommends the following:

  • Dissolve existing agreements between the Aurora Housing Authority and parties related to the re-building of Jericho Circle.
  • Restart the process of studying the feasibility and potential for re-use of the current site.
  • Identify the needs of our community and compare to the current housing inventory available. Are there other uses or designs that would benefit our community?
  • Include all parties affected by any development on this site. Bring transparency to the process by involving them in the discussion and subsequent planning.

The Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors requests more transparency. Without this, there will continue to be a lack of understanding within the community and an unwillingness to move forward. We would hope that the Aurora Housing Authority board, appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council, has the best interest of the community in mind.