Regional plan aired at city plan meeting

Evanston Plan Commission members got an update on planning efforts across the Chicago region Wednesday night.
Erin Aleman, Senior Regional Planner of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, presented the draft of the GO TO 2040 plan, explaining each of 12 recommendations CMAP, who crafted the draft, is proposing for Cook County and six neighboring counties.
GO TO 2040's recommendations range from promoting sustainable local food to reforming state and local tax policy. CMAP's specialization lies in land use and transportation, so the plan discusses ways to make both more efficient.
In response to a question from Plan Commissioner Charles Staley about how those goals would be funded, Aleman listed several grants CMAP has or aims to acquire, including a $25 million grant received from the U. S. Department of Energy.
She also suggested the idea of a regional motor fuel tax, saying existing state and local gas taxes are relatively low here.
Plan Commission Chair Stuart Opdycke said it will be very difficult to initiate many of the steps of the plan because they'll need to be approved by state officials.
"It's a mountain to climb," he said. "I applaud your efforts thus far, but none of this is going to be easy."
Planning Division Director Dennis Marino said this plan fits in a previously unoccupied space in policy. "One of the things this plan clearly does is fill a vacuum that exists," he said. "I think that makes a critical difference both in the public debate and in Springfield and Washington."
CMAP's board is scheduled to approve the plan in October, when Aleman said CMAP's recommendations would turn into action. One of the first steps is constructing a website for residents to explore 240 different characteristics of their community, such as demographic data or housing trends.
And how will it affect Evanston specifically? "We really hope that this will continue the high quality of life here, increase transit access and also just make the region a better place," Aleman said.
The draft is available for comment online and a public meeting for Northwest/North Central Cook County will take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 29, at the Arlington Heights Public Library, 500 N. Dunton Ave.