Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced today important changes to the Cook County Highway Department, renaming it the Department of Transportation and Highways, broadening the scope of the Department’s mission to take focus on regional strategic planning and make the department eligible for more federal grant funding.
Currently, the department’s primary focus is asset preservation – maintaining the County’s 1,469 lane miles of roadway, 134 bridges and 351 traffic signals. The re-structuring will allow the department to better compete for new Federal dollars, both individually and in partnership with other transportation agencies, such as planning grants to examine how our roadway system links cities with multi-modal (busestrainsbicycles) use. The department also will be able to position itself to better plan and design roads and bridges for connections with the CTA, PACE and Metra, opening up the potential for Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funding. If the department is able to consider multi-modal users like bicyclists and off-street connections for bike paths that promote safety and accessibility, then county planners can look beyond local municipal borders when envisioning contiguous bike trails.
“With a broader, more strategic focus, the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways will be able to have a meaningful impact in shaping how our transportation systems impact regional economies and promote growth,” Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said. “By taking advantage of federal funding opportunities, we will be able to more effectively utilize existing resources. This is another example of the kind of long-term financial planning contained in our 2013 Budget.”
The Department of Transportation and Highways will look to bring in qualified staff with a background in urban planning to help facilitate innovative new transportation projects that focus on strengthening transportation infrastructure, linking underserved communities to needed resources through transportation opportunities and growing the regional economy.
“I am excited to head up the President’s new Department of Transportation and Highways,” said John Yonan, Superintendent of the Department of Highways. “The department’s bold new vision will allow us to look at all modes of transportation more comprehensively and ensure that our planning addresses to the future needs of Cook County.”
From 2010 to 2012, the Department of Highways has been awarded a total of $24.15 million in federal grants, a large portion of which will be used over a five-year period. The transition to the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways will take effect December 1, 2012, the first day of the new fiscal year.