Indiana’s two U.S.
senators and Illinois’ are all urging the U.S. Department of Transportation
(DOT) to extend by at least 60 days the comment period on a proposed rule
change which could force the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning
Commission to merge with its counterpart in Illinois, the Chicago
Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP).
Such a merger, the
senators warn, could create bureaucratic quagmires in the regional
transportation planning and funding process and be far worse a cure than
whatever illness the rule change is intended to fix.
In a letter to
Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and dated Aug. 16, U.S. Sens. Joe
Donnelly, D-Ind., Dan Coats, R-Ind., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk,
R-Ill. request the 60-day extension, on the ground that “it is clear that
our constituent stakeholders need more time to weigh in with substantive
“We are concerned
the current proposed rule would fundamentally change the long-established
cooperative working relationships between (municipal planning organizations)
in our states and set back efforts to successfully coordinate transportation
planning and investments in our region,” the four senators state in the
CMAP and NIRPC
“currently sit on each other’s transportation committees, their staffs
regularly attend meetings, and their executive directors meet quarterly,”
improving coordination, our (municipal planning organizations) and state
departments of transportation have expressed serious concerns that the
proposed rule may in fact do the opposite, risking the cooperative and
effective relationships our (municipal planning organizations) already enjoy
and creating unintended difficulties for their governance structure, their
comprehensive planning development, and the funding and selection of
transportation projects in Illinois and Indiana,” they add.
“The proposed rule
presents significant risks for our constituents and the 60-day comment
period is not sufficient for all parties to respond meaningfully in this
important rulemaking,” the senators conclude their letter.
Council Member Jim Ton, R-1st, who currently chairs the NIRPC Executive
Committee, has written his own letter of protest to DOT, and at the
council’s last meeting expressed the fear that a merger would inevitably
lead to imbalances in the federal funding of local projects.