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Get Geared Up for Continued Upgrades in Alternative Transportation around Chicago
Get Geared Up for Continued Upgrades in Alternative Transportation around Chicago

One source of funding, the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP), has supported projects to expand the available travel choices and enrich the overall transportation experience. Primera is currently working on an ITEP-funded project on Chicago’s south side that will serve as a vital link to connect two large, local trails.

Transportation enhancement programs have become increasingly important in the past decade and new and exciting projects are underway all across the United States, including Chicago. Pedestrians, cyclists and commuters have more options for getting around than ever before, thanks in part to federal and state funded programs dedicated to the very cause. Primera is intimately familiar with local programs and is excited to take part in the enhancements happening all around us. Whether you are a local sponsor with a vision for alternate forms of transportation or a local citizen utilizing neighborhood trails, we’d like to share some information about the history of these initiatives and the funding options available.

In August of 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users SAFETEA-LU was passed by Congress. States were required to continue designating 10 percent of their Surface Transportation Program funds to projects that enrich the transportation system. The program is open to projects that accommodate trucks, cars, and transit rails, as well as pedestrian and bicycle transportation. Within certain legal limits, the enhancement program allows each state the flexibility to customize the program to fit its needs.

Illinois did just that. As a result of this legislation, the Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) was created to fund transportation infrastructure projects through the use of historic, aesthetic, cultural, and/or environmental improvements. A project qualifies for funding if it falls under any one of 12 categories listed within the ITEP Guidelines Manual and relates to surface transportation.

The main goals of ITEP are to improve distribution of funding to projects that support alternate modes of transportation, preserve cultural and visual resources along the route, and enhance the overall quality of life for members of the communities that utilize the facilities. The program allows the public to be directly involved with the funded projects by allowing interested community members to participate throughout the entire planning, design, and implementation process.

The majority of the ITEP program is federally funded. Federal funding can range from 50% for right-of-way, acquisition costs, and easement projects to 80% for utility relocations, preliminary engineering, and construction projects. The remaining funds need to be generated by the state or local agency. The ITEP program was not designed to fund an entire project start-to-finish, but instead act as an assistance program aimed to help communities achieve their project goals. Sponsors are still encouraged to locate additional sources of funding to ensure that their projects are successful.

Primera is currently working on one of the many ITEP funded projects in the Chicagoland area. The Cook County Forest Preserve District’s (CCFPD) Thorn Creek Bike Trail was approved by the program in 2012. This project is one of several improvement projects the CCFPD is undertaking by implementing new trails, extensions, and other general enhancements. Once complete, the Thorn Creek Bike Trail project will connect three other sections of the Thorn Creek Trail System with each other as well as with the Burnham Greenway and Old Plank Road Trails, allowing local residents to travel between communities easier and safer than ever before.

The existing trail is a 10-ft wide, paved, multi-use trail that extends 4.5 miles to the north and 4.7 miles in the southern section. The planned improvements will add 4.75 miles of new trails to the overall trail system through Chicago Heights, Glenwood, Park Forest, and Thornton. The new trail will feature a series of pedestrian bridges that will span waterways and railway tracks. Besides receiving funding from ITEP, this project is receiving additional funds from the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, a Federal Highway Administration program that support surface transportation projects and other related efforts that contribute air quality improvements and provide congestion relief.

We encourage you to learn more about this and other exciting programs and to take advantage of the funding available. A complete list of ITEP categories, as well as additional information regarding the program, is included in the Useful Links section below. While the deadline for 2013 funding has already passed, information regarding online applications for future ITEP funding cycles can be found on the Illinois Department of Transportation’s website. Primera will keep you informed as new cycles are announced.

ITEP 2012 Guidelines Manual, Cycle 10

Thorn Creek Bicycle Trail
Forest Preserves of Cook County
Funding Sources

Get Geared Up for Continued Upgrades in Alternative Transportation around Chicago

Above: A swale crossing at Illinois Beach State Park