Plano looks at public transportation projects

PLANO — At the regular meeting of the Plano City Council, on Nov. 9, Mayor Robert Hausler introduced a topic that defined the gathering: public transportation. Or in Kendall County, the lack thereof.

Hausler shared the result of a meeting he attended in Normal concerning the Passenger Rail Update. Hosted by Gary Hanning, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Transportation, the meeting provided information about the development of a high-speed intercity passenger rail program (HSIPR).

The proposed action will provide high-speed rail passenger service between Chicago and St. Louis along the current Amtrak route. In addition to the St. Louis route, Chicago would be a central hub for high-speed routes to Detroit and Milwaukee. As part of this rail development, the city of Plano is proposed to be part of an additional route from Chicago to Quincy and perhaps Iowa City, adding between four and 10 additional stops per day at the Plano train station.

Presently, the passenger rail project awaits funding from 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. With the earliest updates taking place as early as 2010, Hausler deemed this a very interesting update that has great potential for Plano.

In further legislative news, the council received an update on the $40,000 allotted to Plano in the Illinois Capital Budget for infrastructure improvements. In a letter from the office of state Rep. Kay Hatcher, R-Yorkville, receipt of those funds is pending a bond sale designed to generate the revenue for the payout. Hausler said to expect to hear progress on this payout in July 2010.

A second transportation-related development, the Go To 2040 Workforce Development Plan, was discussed. Rich Healy, executive director of the Plano Area Chamber of Commerce, is the representative for Kendall County on this project. As the project nears completion, Healy said, “one of the key elements that came up for discussion is the lack of public transportation in Kendall County in the fact that. even if we had a larger trained workforce, it is difficult to get it to the workplace.”

As the plan is unveiled in the next 10 months, Healy said the next step depends upon how the state legislature responds to the plan’s suggestions. Hopefully, in the end, decisions will be made that enhance Plano’s ability to attract a qualified workforce and businesses to employ that workforce.

Addressing current Plano employees, city Treasurer Janet Goehst asked that an OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) fund be established in the budget. This fund will be used to transfer dollars from other funds, such as sewer, water, and parks and be used to cover the post-employment benefits that employees receive at the start of retirement, which include life insurance premiums, healthcare premiums and deferred-compensation arrangements.

A final announcement was made by Tom Karpus, director of Building, Planning and Zoning. Building Community, a non-profit organization in Plano, is seeking nominations for next year’s home makeover project scheduled to take place over Memorial Day weekend. Applications are available at city hall.

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