Is the STAR Line pie-in-the-sky when current mass transit systems face problems getting the funds they need for operations and capital improvements? Arlington Heights Village President Arlene Mulder doesn't think so.
In her annual state of the village speech Thursday to the Arlington Heights Rotary Club, she encouraged people to come to the plan commission meeting 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 22, at village hall, 33 S. Arlington Heights Road, to hear about and comment on the plan.
The 55-mile commuter rail service connecting O'Hare International Airport and Joliet would run down the middle of the Northwest Tollway with a stop just east of Arlington Heights Road.
She said the plan is "the way of the future," citing growing traffic congestion, skyrocketing commuting costs and the growing "green" environmental movement as issues that would push it forward.
"If design work and federal funding is approved, this rail line could begin service in 2017," she said, envisioning the area around the transit station as "a whole other village, similar to downtown."
While a development of that scale might be 30 to 50 years off, she said there's a push in Springfield to win special tax increment financing powers for such a transit-driven project, so that it can be redeveloped even though it doesn't meet the current requirement of being in a blighted area.
In response to questions and in her address, Mulder made these points:
• "The Olympics would be wonderful for our region" because it would enhance Chicago's shaky recognition as a global city and lead to airport improvements that would benefit the region. A danger is that state and federal money for suburban projects would be diverted to Chicago.
• While the loss of Lattof Chevrolet marked the painful end of Arlington Heights' auto row on Northwest Highway, she said, Dundee Road has taken its place. She anticipates three more dealers moving to that area and said that the entire Honeywell manufacturing site will become an auto mall.
• Harper College's quest to offer four-year degrees in homeland security is troublesome because it risks eroding the traditional role of the community college as a partner with the four-year schools and a source of adult education. It shouldn't get any taxpayer money, she said. Harper is planning to fund the program with grants and tuition.
• While TIF districts sometimes are criticized for taking money away from schools because increased property tax revenue from redevelopment is diverted to pay for development incentives, they do over time result in more revenue for all concerned, she said. She cited TIF 1 downtown which is ending after 23 years and has seen property value growth of 821 percent in that time compared to the village average of 300 percent, versus TIF 3 in the Rand and Palatine Road area, where no redevelopment occurred for decades, but which with the TIF has drawn Trader Joe's, Panera and other businesses.