Part of Prairie Parkway funding approved

Federal approval has been given to the Prairie Parkway. It's a 37-mile expressway that would connect I-88 to I-80.

Cornfields giving way to housing developments; strip malls replacing farmland - Kendall, Kane and Grundy are among some of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. To accommodate this growth, the proposed Prairie Parkway has been given federal approval by several bureaus, including the Environmental Protection Agency, to move forward.

"The project was reviewed by federal agencies as the U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers, EPA, the Department of Interior and so forth, and they've given their blessing to the project. It met with all their environmental concerns," said Rick Powell, Illinois Dept. of Transportation planning engineer.

The Prairie Parkway will connect I-88 in Kane County to I-80 in Grundy County along a corridor west of Route 47. Widening of Rt. 47 from Caton Farm Road to I-80 is included in the project.

Funding has been committed for the first leg of the project - five miles over the Fox River linking routes 71 and 34. Land acquisitions, engineering and design plans will now begin.

It may not look like the perfect example of ongoing growth in the collar counties, but it is. One farm is just down the road from a new land development and new subdivisions.

The still unanswered question is, "Where will the funding come from to build the remaining 32 miles of freeway, and when?"

"I think that's going to be a major problem," said Gary Adams, Oswego village administrator. "They talked about the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska; we may have a road to nowhere for awhile."

The freeway had faced opposition in the past, due to the displacement of homes and farms, but the tide has turned.

"From a business standpoint, anything that makes it easier for consumers is a wonderful thing," said Greg Kaleel, Oswego business owner. "As a resident of the community, anything that makes it less congested is a positive thing."

Initial construction is still a year or two away. The first five miles could be done by 2011.

"They're going to have to figure out how to fund it long term," said Adams.

One hundred and eighty-four million dollars has been approved for the first five miles. The cost of building the entire expressway would be $900 million.

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