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Preparing for 2.8 million more people by 2040
Agency looking into Chicago area's future
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning launches its GO TO 2040 campaign today, an attempt to guide growth in the region.

 

Associated Press file

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Published: 3/24/2008 12:09 AM

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Getting workers to their jobs quickly, moving trains through the area, providing decent housing at affordable prices and ensuring there's enough open space to go around.

Architect Daniel Burnham kept those goals in mind when he crafted his legendary plan for Chicago in 1909.

Now, nearly 100 years later, regional planners are back at the drawing board with dreams of achieving the same success Burnham had.

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning launches its GO TO 2040 campaign today. The agency aims to create a comprehensive plan that guides growth and development in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will counties for the next three decades.

It could be the region's last chance to get a handle on a population boom of more than 2.8 million people expected by 2040, and planners want the public to participate.

"We're asking people to take a moment and think about what they want for their children and themselves over the next 20 to 30 years," CMAP Executive Director Randy Blankenhorn said.

"We're starting with a blank sheet of paper."

Look at the metropolitan region now and you'll see plenty of room for improvement: Housing prices at odds with low- and middle-income workers. A transportation infrastructure in serious need of repair. A water supply threatened by demand and pollution. Long commutes.

"We're the third-most congested region in the country," Blankenhorn said. "If you add 2 million more people in the next 20 years, how will you move them around? And how will they get to work?"

The solutions are out there, planners believe, citing the way they're addressing traffic jams caused by freight trains traveling through northeastern Illinois.

The federal government in cooperation with the state, city of Chicago, railways and Metra has formed a coalition that aims to ease train congestion with new overpasses and underpasses plus other improvements.

That type of problem-solving and cooperation will be necessary among local municipalities and counties to forge a meaningful plan, Blankenhorn said.

"It's important not to look at it from a community-by-community perspective," he said. "We need to look at the region, where the jobs are and where the workers are coming from.

"We need to understand it's one economy, it's not Schaumburg versus Joliet, it's northern Illinois versus China and India for jobs."

While CMAP is authorized by the state to come up with a long-range transportation and land use plan, agency leaders are promising GO TO 2040 will go beyond that.

Natural resources, such as water, will come into play.

"Our supply of fresh water is an economic advantage but not if we squander it," Blankenhorn said.

"We don't want to wait until we're like Texas and Atlanta and have a real problem."

The plan will also look at quality of life -- setting goals for the unemployment rate, poverty level and education of residents here.

CMAP is collaborating with the Chicago Community Trust on the project. The Trust, a charitable foundation, is donating $1.3 million toward GO TO 2040.

"We want to create a realistic but powerful vision for the region that is broadly embraced," Trust President Terry Mazany said.

CMAP has already created a Web site where individuals can fill out surveys and comment on reports, such as a recently posted paper on teardowns. To participate, visit the agency's Web site at www.goto2040.org.

Different scenarios of the GO TO 2040 plan will be presented to the public in summer 2009 and a final version will be adopted in fall of 2010.

Planners hope the results will be such that people compare it favorably to the Burnham plan 100 years from now.

"I would say the decisions we made over the last decade got us to where we are today," Blankenhorn said. "Some are good, some are bad -- things don't happen by chance."

A view to 2040

Here's a look at some of the numbers driving the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning's drive to create a comprehensive regional plan.

• In the next three decades, 2.8 million more people will be living in the metropolitan region.

• By 2040, the economy will add 1.8 million jobs, which equals 1.8 more workers on the roads or using public transit.

• If we keep developing land at current rates, more than 337,000 acres will be consumed to keep up with growth, which is equivalent to the size of Kane County.

• For information about the GO TO 2040 regional plan and to participate in surveys, visit the CMAP site at www.goto2040.org.

Source: CMAP