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Sugar Grove seeks parkway money for I-88 interchange

SUGAR GROVE – With the Prairie Parkway likely destined for a future as a footnote in local history books, local governments along Route 47 from Kane to Grundy counties have begun competing to claim a share of the tens of millions of transportation dollars from the controversial highway project.

Locally, officials in Sugar Grove believe they have a strong case to steer money toward the interstate interchange at the village’s north end.

“We know that there are other projects out there,” said Sugar Grove Village President Sean Michels. “But with all the upsides that our project here will give immediately, we think there are few others that are going to give this kind of bang for the buck.”

For years, officials in Sugar Grove have sought the upgrade of the Interstate 88 and Route 47 interchange, from a partial to a full interchange, in the hopes of spurring business growth around the junction.

Earlier this year, the Kane County Board added the interchange project to its list of Top 10 local transportation projects. The Illinois Tollway has said it also supports the interchange upgrade project, indicating it may be willing to chip in as much as 50 percent of the estimated $20 million cost.

But that funding depends on local governments coming up with the remaining money from various sources. And that is where the Prairie Parkway comes in, Sugar Grove officials said.

Late this summer, the Federal Highway Administration abruptly withdrew its support of the Prairie Parkway, a proposed 37-mile highway intended to connect I-88 to Interstate 80 from Kane County to Grundy County.

That decision left about $100 million that had been earmarked for the Prairie Parkway to be reallocated for other road projects along the Parkway corridor, and especially for Route 47.

Those funding decisions will be made by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Michels and Sugar Grove Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger said they, in the past two months, have discussed the village’s plans and desires with U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, State Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, and representatives of IDOT.

Representatives of Hultgren’s office and of IDOT confirmed the discussions. However, Hultgren spokeswoman Laura Finch said the congressman has not indicated a preference for the I-88 interchange project over any other transportation project along the corridor within the 14th Congressional District, which includes Kendall County.

“Our priority is making sure the money stays in the current 14th District – that is the intended beneficiary of the 2005 earmark,” Finch said. “Beyond that, if the money stays in the 14th, Congressman Hultgren will be satisfied with whatever outcome our municipal and state governments agree on.”

IDOT spokesman Mike Claffey said the state has not set a time frame for distributing the money, but noted projects on Route 47 in Kendall and Grundy counties could begin as soon as early 2014.

“We are analyzing [the interchange project] with other priorities on Route 47,” Claffey said.

Tom Rickert, deputy director at the Kane County Division of Transportation, said his agency supports the Sugar Grove project, but noted that the county also believes the region could benefit should the state opt to widen Route 47 between Sugar Grove and Yorkville.

“We want to see the state utilize the funds appropriately,” Rickert said.

Eichelberger, however, said Sugar Grove stands by its contention that few projects would be more appropriate for the leftover Parkway money than the I-88 interchange work.

“We don’t want to be negative on the other projects,” he said. “But the results from this one would be realized relatively quickly, and would be long-lasting.

“We believe this will easily justify the funding.”

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