Area examines transportation needs

By Richard Snowden

As the DeKalb area continues to grow and expand, meeting the area’s transportation needs is becoming an increasingly important issue.

To address this issue, the DeKalb-Sycamore Area Transportation Study was formed in 2003 after the DeKalb area’s population exceeded 50,000, resulting in the DeKalb area being designated as an urbanized area by the federal government.

“The DSATS is the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the DeKalb-Sycamore area,” said Laurie Hokkanen, transportation planner for the City of DeKalb. “The participating municipalities include DeKalb, Sycamore, DeKalb County, Cortland and NIU.”

In addition to functioning as a forum for discussing transportation-related issues, the DSATS assists with transportation planning efforts and helps coordinate state and federal transportation investment in the area.

“The DSATS examines transportation issues and provides recommendations, but it is ultimately up to the area municipalities to decide whether or not to implement those recommendations,” DeKalb City Planner Ray Keller said.

Hokkanen said the DSATS has been working on long-range transportation plans for the area for some time.

“We’ve spent the past few years getting certain elements in place, such as our long-range transportation plan, which was completed in July,” she said. “We’ve looked at traffic forecasts for the area through 2030. Some of our recommendations include widening Peace Road between I-88 and Route 38 and from Route 64 to Route 23, and also widening Annie Glidden Road from Ashley Drive to I-88.”

Other area communities also are planning road upgrades based on the DSATS’ recommendations, Hokkanen said.

“Sycamore has plans for Airport Road at the Route 64 intersection,” she said. “Cortland had also previously discussed realigning Airport Road, but we’re not sure how that will come out right now.”

Sycamore City Manager Bill Nicklas said the prospect of his city receiving more funding for transportation projects was unlikely in the near future.

“We’re just coming off the Bethany Road reconstruction project,” Nicklas said. “For the next few years, we’ll probably take a back seat to some of the other DSATS members since we’ve recently completed a transportation improvement project.”

Due to federal regulations, the DSATS will be required to begin accepting competitive bids from public transport providers for the first time next year. The sole provider to date has been TransVAC, which operates primarily para transit services geared toward the elderly and disabled.

“In February, we’ll start the process of accepting bids for public transportation in the area,” Hokkanen said. “The winning bidder will be in place by Oct. 1, 2006.”

The federal regulations will not affect NIU or the Huskie Bus Line, she said.