Continuing to see Illinois highways as growth and job generators

The selection of a new executive director of the Illinois Tollway suggests the agency wants to continue to push growth:

Greg Bedalov, president and CEO of Choose DuPage, an economic development organization, will take over as executive director at the agency, officials said…

Rauner’s pick for Chairman Bob Schillerstrom told the Daily Herald that economic growth and job creation go hand-in-hand with the tollway.

It’s expected Bedalov will reflect that philosophy as the tollway heads into the third year of a massive $12 billion road building program…

In a 2012 op-ed piece for the Daily Herald, Bedalov talked about communities collaborating in the region instead of competing to create jobs.

“It is critical that local and county economic development agencies work collaboratively with state and federal agencies to uncover additional opportunities for economic wins,” he wrote.

This sounds like a growth machine approach to building tollways: providing increased capacity for vehicles will lead to new economic opportunities for businesses who want access to such transportation options, workers who can reach jobs more quickly, and developers who can develop and build nearby. The argument here is that this can be good for the entire region as the benefits of improved or new tollways would extend across communities.

Quickly, some possible objections:

1. It is really difficult to build new tollways in a region that is already largely developed. It is costly (acquiring land, environmental studies, increasing construction costs) and takes a lot of time.

2. Adding highway capacity just increases traffic: people see more available roads and drive on them. Why not put some of this transportation money into mass-transit and denser developments that could benefit from an economy of scale?

3. Who really benefits from such construction? The firms getting the contracts and the developers? How exactly do the benefits trickle down to the average resident?

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