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Kendall projects catch attention of House Transportation chair

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

WEST CHICAGO — In Kendall County, the engineering for a bridge over a small creek can be completed in about six months for $60,000 by county employees. However, if the county needs federal dollars to pay for the project, the regulations can make the same engineering cost $250,000 and take up to two years.

At a roundtable discussion with members of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, Kendall County Chairman John Purcell used that example to illustrate the problems with a system that requires anyone getting federal money to test the muddiness of water when it rains. These specifications mean the county can’t afford to pursue projects with federal entanglements, Purcell said.

Purcell’s concerns were the kind of specific problems that Rep. John Mica, U.S. House Transportation Committee chairman, was hoping to hear during the two-hour discussion at the DuPage Airport on Sunday afternoon.

The meeting is part of a nationwide tour to gather information from the people involved in local transportation projects, a prelude to the March vote on a federal transportation bill.

Illinois U.S. Reps. Randy Hultgren, Dan Lipinski and Adam Kinzinger spoke briefly, but spent most of the time listening to about 100 people in the standing-room-only crowd. Nearly everyone there worked on transportation infrastructure, mainly roads.

Mica, a Florida Republican, promised the meeting would not be a “handshake, lovey thing,” and he lived up to that pledge. He consistently pressed speakers for specific ways the federal government could improve transportation or improve local governments’ access to federal dollars.

County Chairman Dan Cronin and other DuPage officials spoke to the committee about the need for western access to O’Hare Airport. Mica asked for specifics that the feds could help with, and Cronin said he would supply a written report.

Most of the comments from engineers, public officials and labor leaders focused on the red tape the federal government requires. Speakers consistently said the burdensome requirements slow down the process and end up costing taxpayers.

Mica was grateful for concrete examples of where government is muddling projects. He pointed out the Kendall County numbers as an example he could bring back to Washington when he makes the case for a six-year plan.

“I’m gonna use Purcell,” Mica said. “Make sure we have down exactly what he said.”

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