DuPage officials push for O’Hare bypass
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com July 5, 2012 12:54PM
Updated: November 30, 2012 10:37AM
DuPage County leaders have taken their case for the expanded approach to O’Hare International Airport to Washington, D.C.
Officially known as the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass but locally referred to as Western Access, the $3.4 billion project is an alternative multi-modal transportation plan that sprawls across 127 square miles and 27 communities in Cook and DuPage Counties, linking the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway to O’Hare International Airport.
The County Board went on record in support of the extension more than two years ago by adopting a formal resolution.
“Coming out of a national recession, it would be irresponsible not to support Western Access,” said then-chairman Bob Schillerstrom of Naperville. “This is not just a transportation issue, it’s an economic one.”
Current Chairman Dan Cronin, a longtime proponent of the massive capital undertaking who now chairs the Western Access Finance Working Group, called the route a “key priority” for DuPage. He said local officials have been working closely on it with federal lawmakers.
“However, we felt that it was important to meet with them face-to-face to further discuss Western Access,” Cronin said. release. “Our funding request was well received and I believe we are one step closer to making Western Access a reality.”
Accompanying Cronin on the recent 30-hour trip were County Board members Paul Fichtner of Elmhurst, who heads the board’s finance committee, and JR McBride of Glen Ellyn, chairman of the legislative committee. Others in the delegation included Greg Bedalov, CEO and president of Choose DuPage; Kristi Lefleur, executive director of the Illinois Tollway; Hanover Park Mayor Rod Craig; Frank Furco of the DuPage County Building Trades Council; and Ron Lunt of Hamilton Partners.
While there, they met with federal lawmakers or their staff members, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.); U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton); U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Chicago); U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Peoria); U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Joliet); U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood; and U.S. Rep. John Mica, (R-Fla.), who serves as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Several DuPage County mayors who happened to be in the nation’s capital on other business joined them for some of the meetings.
The Illinois Tollway has pledged to fund $3.1 billion of the project. It has also directed DuPage County and local municipalities to secure the remaining $300 million needed to finish the project. McBride said the county has been working with local municipalities on securing grant funds to help cover the local share.
“Western Access is essential to our region’s economic vitality as it will provide easier access to O’Hare Airport and create hundreds of thousands of jobs,” McBride said.
Fichtner, whose district includes much of the project area, was he was proud of the unified front the visit presented to Washington power brokers.
“They were very optimistic about the project and truly understand just how important Western Access is to our region,” Fichtner said.