Illinois

WBEZ’s Reveal: ELPC’s Handheld Air Monitor & Intern Eve Robinson Featured in Diesel Pollution & Schools Special Report

WBEZ 91.5 Chicago Public Radio
Reveal Show: School Haze
February 18, 2017

Across the country, thousands of public schools are within 500 feet of pollution-choked roads like highways and truck routes. On Reveal, we investigate the high levels of exhaust surrounding U.S. schools and how the bad air is affecting the millions of children who are breathing it in.

LISTEN HERE

 

The State Journal-Register: Learner Says ELPC will Stand Up for Citizens’ Rights to Clean Air and Water

State_Journal-Register_logoEnvironmentalists Preparing to Battle Trump, GOP in Court
January 29, 2017
By Tammy Webber and John Flesher

CHICAGO – The night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, five environmental lawyers filed a federal court brief defending an Obama administration clean-water rule that the new president and his Republican allies have targeted for elimination, considering it burdensome to landowners.

The move served as a warning that environmentalists, facing a hostile administration and a Republican-dominated Congress, are prepared to battle in court against what they fear will be a wave of unfavorable policies concerning climate change, wildlife protection, federal lands and pollution.

Advocacy groups nationwide are hiring more staff lawyers. They’re coordinating with private attorneys and firms that have volunteered to help. They’re reviewing statutes, setting priorities and seeking donations.

“It’s going to be all-out war,” said Vermont Law School Professor Patrick Parenteau. “If you’re an environmentalist or conservationist, this is indeed a scary time.”

Trump’s first week in office only heightened their anxieties. He moved to resume construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines that the Obama administration had halted, while signaling intentions to abandon his predecessor’s fight against global warming, vastly expand oil and gas drilling on public lands and slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget.

GOP lawmakers, meanwhile, introduced measures to overturn a new Interior Department rule barring coal mining companies from damaging streams and to remove some wolves from the endangered species list.

“They’ve wasted no time in doing bad things,” said Pat Gallagher, director of the Sierra Club’s 50-member legal team, which he said is likely to grow as environmentalists increasingly regard the courts as their best option, even though success there is far from certain.

The Department of Justice, which represents the federal government in environmental lawsuits, declined to comment, while the White House did not respond to emails seeking comment. Doug Ericksen, communications director for Trump’s transition team at EPA, said of the environmentalists that he’s “not sure what they think they’re preparing for” but suspects they are stoking fear of Trump as a fundraising tool.

“They’re more concerned about raising money than protecting the environment,” Ericksen said.

Jim Burling, litigation director for the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit property rights group that sues regulators on behalf of businesses and landowners, also contended environmental groups were exaggerating the Trump administration’s threat for political and financial gain.

The government bureaucracy is entrenched, Burling said, and, “who happens to occupy the White House hasn’t made that much difference.”

Environmentalists say their fears are justified by the new administration’s antagonism toward government’s role in keeping air and water clean and the planet from overheating.

Donations began increasing after Trump’s election, “even before the fundraising letters were sent” asking for support to fight the administration’s actions, said David Goldston, government affairs director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Earthjustice, which has represented the Standing Rock Sioux tribe in its fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline, has about 100 staff attorneys and plans to bring more aboard, said Tim Preso, who manages the group’s Northern Rockies office.

The Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center is adding four attorneys to its pre-election staff of 18 and is coordinating with more than a dozen outside attorneys who would file citizen suits against polluters for free if agencies fail to enforce existing rules, said Executive Director Howard Learner.

“We cannot fully substitute and replace the EPA doing its job,” Learner said. “But on the other hand, we’re not going to default to zero if the EPA steps backward when it comes to clean air and clean water enforcement.”

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Chicago Tonight: ELPC & Allies Reach Settlement with MWRD to Reduce Algae Pollution in Chicago River

Chicago TonightMWRD Deal Aims to Reduce Algae Pollution in Chicago River
January 25, 2017
By Alex Ruppenthal

The decades long fight to clean up the Chicago River took a step forward last week with the resolution of two lawsuits targeting phosphorous discharge that has polluted waters from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico.

On Jan. 19, members of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago’s Board of Commissioners voted to increase pollution controls and monitoring at its largest wastewater plants by 2030. The plan is part of an agreement between MWRD and several environmental organizations that resolves litigation over pollution at three of MWRD’s Chicago-area sewage plants.

“Our local waters have been a poster child for the national problem of phosphorus pollution, but now we have a chance to be a model for the solution,” said Ann Alexander, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of six plaintiff organizations in the lawsuits.

“If you can fix this in a waterway with a reputation like the Chicago River, it means you can clean up any river.”

In exchange for a dismissal of one lawsuit, MWRD also agreed to pay more than $1.7 million in attorneys’ fees.

“I want to commend our staff and our outside counsel for bringing this forward,” said MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore at the board’s Jan. 19 meeting. “I want to thank the conservation community for their assertive advocacy, for their really pushing the district to get to this point where I think we will benefit the Chicago area waterways. We’ve come a long way with disinfection and with bringing the reservoirs online so that water quality is better, but this will bring us even further. So it’s a big day.”

Despite investments in clean water infrastructure, the Chicago River system has remained polluted by excess amounts of phosphorous and other nutrients from wastewater plants.

Phosphorous discharges at the plants cause overgrowth of algae, producing toxins that can be dangerous to people and animals, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Pollution from the plants wind up in Chicago’s waters and in downstream waters, like the Des Plaines River, Illinois River and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico, according to the website of Prairie Rivers Network, one the plaintiff groups.

In response to two pending lawsuits – one in U.S. District Court and one before the Illinois Pollution Control Board – MWRD agreed to work with environmental groups to reduce phosphorous discharge from its plants.

MWRD will upgrade pollution controls and conduct water quality monitoring. It also agreed to hire scientists and engineers to study the Chicago River system and present a plan to eliminate harmful algal and plant issues.

The study will also determine the feasibility of MWRD reducing its phosphorous discharge limit by 10 times, a move that would fall in line with more stringent limits in other parts of the U.S.

“Our members love to paddle on our local waterways, but the disgusting, smelly algae that blooms every summer can really get in the way of their enjoyment,” said Kim Knowles, staff attorney with Prairie Rivers Network, in a press release. “We’re glad to finally be headed toward a long-term solution.”

Other plaintiff organizations were the Sierra Club, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Gulf Restoration Network and Friends of the Chicago River. One suit alleged that MWRD had violated provisions of the Clean Water Act; the other suit appealed permits issued to MWRD by the Illinois EPA in 2013.

“This settlement signals a positive change toward improving the way permits are written to protect Illinois waters,” said Jessica Dexter, staff Attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, in a press release. “We expect other dischargers to follow suit and be part of the long-term solution to rid algae overgrowth from our waterways.”

Read the article here

Chicago Tribune: Innovative Ideas for Chicago’s Pedway Emerge from ELPC-sponsored Workshops

Chicago Tribune
January 21, 2017

… Ideas Floated for Pedway

By Blair Kamin

Live performances in the mothballed CTA superstation below Block 37. Temporary food carts. Art displays. Shafts of natural light. Touches of greenery. Visible security patrols.

Those were among ideas that nearly 100 people recently floated at three workshops aimed at making downtown Chicago’s confusing and visually dreary network of underground tunnels and corridors easier to navigate and more attractive.

The network, called the pedway, connects more than 50 buildings and is used by thousands of people on weekdays, particularly during extreme and inclement weather. No one thinks it’s perfect, the workshops revealed, but the sessions also aired different, though not necessarily irreconcilable, goals on how to make the pedway better.

“Maybe there’s a tension between form and function,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, the nonprofit that sponsored the workshops. “There are some who are saying, ‘It needs to be made cleaner, better lit, better maintained, just an easier way to get around.’ There are others who say, ‘This can be made more exciting.'”

Individual building owners — including the city, state and county — operate sections of the pedway, which has grown piecemeal since its first sections opened in 1951. Yet inconsistencies in everything from operating hours to temperature levels frustrate users of the system. City transportation officials are backing efforts to upgrade the network, starting with a key stretch beneath Randolph Street that was the focus of the workshops.

The top priorities that emerged from the sessions, Learner said, are better signs and maps that will improve navigation, common hours and operating policies that will unify the pedway, and new activities that will make the network exciting, engaging, even hip, like underground networks in Montreal and Atlanta.

To do all that, the nonprofit will need to build a constituency of public officials and private businesses that will support the effort — and, in all likelihood, pay for it.

The next step calls for a team of design consultants to lead open workshops Monday through Friday at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. The team is composed of Billings Jackson Design of Chicago, which specializes in “wayfinding” systems; British engineers BuroHappold; and New York’s Davis Brody Bond architects.

“Part of what they’re going to do is put a lot of stuff upon the wall and they’ll incorporate the conceptual (ideas) that people have raised” at the workshops, Learner said. Key players, from officials in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to executives at Macy’s State Street store, which has a connection to the pedway, will be invited in to comment. So will members of the public.

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EnergyWire: ELPC’s Learner Expresses Commitment to Advance Clean Energy Standards

EnergyWireIn Midwest, a Vow to Continue Clean Energy Push Under Trump
January 23, 2017
By Jeffrey Tomich

Across the Midwest, clean energy advocates will go to work today like they would on any other Monday.

They’ll engage with legislators, regulators and utilities on policies to advance wind, solar and energy efficiency and curtail emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that affect the environment and public health.

Moving forward, of course, there is one obvious change. While green groups generally had backing from the White House over the last eight years, they now face a brisk headwind with Friday’s inauguration of President Trump.

Within minutes of taking the oath of office, the incoming administration scrubbed references to climate change from the White House web site and posted an energy policy summary that outlined plans to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan.”

Clean energy advocates across the Midwest said the reversal in policy at the executive branch cannot overcome trends that are increasingly steering utilities away from coal and to cleaner sources of energy.

Solar panels are a fraction of their cost only a few years ago. Utilities and corporations are continuing to add thousands of megawatts of new wind generation across the Midwest. Energy demand is declining, or at least flat-lining even as local economies grow. And emissions are falling and aging coal plants are retiring.

“There’s a market transformation that’s going on that’s being driven by smart policies combined with technological improvements,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest environmental advocacy group.

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WGN Radio: Learner Talks Environmental Policy Under Trump Administration

wgnradiowlogo-wideWhat Can We Expect from President Donald Trump’s Environmental Policy?
January 19, 2017
With Justin Kaufmann

Howard Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center joins Justin to talk about Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry, Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Energy and what we can expect from President Trump’s environmental policy moving forward.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Howard Learner Remains Positive Despite Forthcoming Trump Administration

Midwest-Energy-News-LogoQ&A: Advocate Upbeat about Midwest as Trump Administration Looms
January 19, 2017
By Kari Lydersen

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center based in Chicago, spent the early 1980s fighting for fair housing laws and civil rights protections during the Reagan administration.

On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Learner lamented how he feels like the clock has turned back three decades, and he’s again in the position of fighting for basic protections and rights that many Americans have long embraced.

But Learner said he is up for the battle, and confident that public opinion, state and local politics and economics are on his side. 

Midwest Energy News talked with Learner about the impending Trump administration and the ELPC’s plans for the next four years. (EDITOR’S NOTE: This transcript has been updated for clarity)

Midwest Energy News: So how do you feel about the next four years?  

Learner: We have a plan, we’re geared up to fight back. The best defense is a good offense – we’re fired up and ready. At ELPC we need to step up and be prepared to act in the changing political landscape, we need to find ways to play to win both in terms of defense in Washington D.C. and the place we can play offense to achieve important progress in the states and the cities. The Midwest is a pretty good place for us to get things done.

What role does the Midwest play exactly in the struggle to protect the environment and clean energy during the Trump administration?

The American public and pragmatic Midwesterners strongly support core environmental values like clean air, safer drinking water and people being able to live in communities without toxic threats. And there’s strong bipartisan consensus in favor of clean energy development that’s good for jobs, economic growth, the environment.

There have been good examples in the Midwest that illustrate both points. The tragedy of contaminated water in Flint has made it clear to Democratic and Republican policymakers around the Midwest that the public won’t accept unsafe drinking water. It’s a bipartisan issue, it’s a nonpartisan issue.

Recently [Illinois Gov. Bruce] Rauner signed into law legislation to reduce the lead risk in the drinking water supply for children in public schools and day care centers…When it comes to clean safe drinking water and healthier clean air, there is strong mainstream public support for better protection by both the U.S. EPA and the state EPAs. They believe there are common sense solutions that we can carry forth, that transcend partisan urban-rural and other divides.

Are you saying that it will be up to governors and state legislatures to pass stronger laws in case the Trump administration weakens or does not enforce federal protections?

On the clean water, clean air and clean energy fronts, it’s clear we’re going to need to play defense in Washington D.C. Trump nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to be U.S. EPA Administrator.  Mr. Pruitt has spent his career as an Attorney General persistently suing the EPA to stop or stall standards to protect clean air and safe drinking water. It is the fox guarding the chicken coop. As the old saying goes, you hope for the best but you plan for the worst.

Unfortunately I expect that ELPC and our colleagues will have to file lawsuits to require the EPA to do its job and fulfill its responsibility, to protect healthy air and clean drinking water for people around our region.

The Trump transition team has indicated that they plan to greatly cut back EPA’s environmental enforcement. If EPA does step back on its environmental enforcement responsibilities, ELPC will help stand up to fill the gap. We’re hiring some additional public interest litigation attorneys. This is one of ELPC’s core strengths, and we are building upon it. This is a time in which public interest environmental litigation is needed both to defend the core environmental laws and to file citizen suits for environmental enforcement.

We have 20 environmental attorneys, and we are stepping up and hiring additional litigants. Secondly, we have created the expanded HELP program – the High-impact Environmental Litigation Program. After the election we got calls from a number of attorneys saying, “I want to help — give me a pro bono case I can do.” We are building upon and expanding on ELPC’s top-rated environmental litigation team and at the same time we are tapping a number of experienced litigators who want to take on pro bono cases to help protect clean air and clean water.

Since many environmental laws are self-implementing, depending largely on citizen suits for enforcement, is it really that different from what you’ve had to do during previous administrations?

We’ve certainly brought citizen suits in the past, we have a citizen suit pending in federal court in central Illinois to enforce clean air violations by Dynegy at its [E.D. Edwards] coal plant. But this is different. When an administration cares about environmental regulations in a positive way, the Attorney General tends to bring the enforcement actions, and we fill some gaps. If we see President Trump’s administration retreating on its enforcement responsibilities, ELPC will step up and have a much more vibrant enforcement strategy. We’re preparing to do that by increasing our in-house litigation team.

That all takes resources and funding. Some media outlets and non-profit organizations have actually seen a boom in support because of Trump. Has that happened for environmental organizations, or do you expect it to happen?

We’ll see. There are some groups out there these days that seem to be asking for money twice a day, it’s a disaster and then it’s another disaster. I hope we’re at a time when environmental philanthropy will be stepped up in response to the needs of the times. These are extraordinary times. And it doesn’t hurt that the stock market is at a relatively high point.

Certainly people in the Midwest and around the country who care about the environment understand that it’s likely to be under siege if someone like Scott Pruitt does become the next EPA Administrator. I think when times are tough, people are willing to dip into their pocketbooks more and step up. But we aren’t taking out loans based on hoped-for increased fundraising, and you’re not going to see the fundraising emails from ELPC. This isn’t about money.

So a Trump administration especially with Pruitt as EPA Administrator would likely roll back enforcement of environmental regulations. On the clean energy development front, will the Trump administration halt progress?

We hope and believe that Congress will not allow the Trump administration to roll back the Production Tax Credit for wind power or the Investment Tax Credit for solar power. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) said [a PTC repeal] would happen “over my dead body.” This is pretty bipartisan.

Solar and wind power have strong bipartisan support. Look what has happened in about the past three months. Illinois passed a strong Renewable Portfolio Standard [fix] supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Iowa Gov. [Terry] Branstad has always taken pride in the state’s wind power leadership, and Iowa is starting to step up on solar development. Wind power development in Iowa is good for jobs, economic growth and the environment, and it’s supported by the entire Republican leadership as well as the Democrats.

Michigan just passed legislation that improves and steps up the RPS. Governor John Kasich in Ohio just vetoed the attempt by the legislature to freeze energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. In just the last few months, we’ve seen progress in four Midwestern states in significant ways.

And Minnesota has always been a leader, in Indiana we have a little work to do, in Wisconsin we have Gov. Scott Walker. But there are two new wind farms in Wisconsin now. For a long time wind power was stalled in Wisconsin, now there are large new wind farms going up in Wisconsin and Dairyland Power [Cooperative] is doing another 15 MW of solar. We’re seeing smart policy plus technological innovation driving clean energy development in the Midwest.

We’re going to have to play some defense in Washington D.C., but we’re looking at these four Midwest states if not five that have stepped up in the last few months. What it shows is first of all that clean energy development has strong mainstream public support. Secondly, it makes sense as a matter of economics. And policymakers understand where the economics are and they are supporting smart policies.

Trump claims he is such a great businessman, so if this is all true why would he undermine clean energy development? 

I will not try to interpret what’s going on in President-elect Trump’s mind. The ITC and PTC have created thousands of new jobs and accelerated cleaner energy in the power markets, protecting public health and the environment, which is what the public wants. This is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment.

Trump has said he wants to create jobs. If President-elect Trump were to support repealing these important public incentives, that would be a triumph of misplaced ideology over common sense.

Read Interview Here

Press Release: Un-Mucking Illinois’ Waterways: Court Settlement Should Reduce Algae Pollution in Rivers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Un-Mucking Illinois’ Waterways: Court Settlement Should Reduce Algae Pollution in Rivers

CHICAGO (January 19, 2017) – Environmental groups have settled long-running litigation against the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) over pollution from three of its Chicago-area sewage treatment plants. The agreement requires the parties to work together to curb phosphorous discharges from the plants that are fueling algae blooms and lowering water quality in the Chicago River system and downstream waters as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

The Chicago River system is much cleaner as a result of investment in clean water infrastructure and the Clean Water Act. However, an overload of phosphorus and other nutrients from wastewater plants continues to pollute these waters. The settlement approved today by MWRD’s Board of Commissioners, resolves a pair of lawsuits targeting the District’s phosphorus pollution as a violation of the federal Clean Water Act. To address the problem MWRD has agreed to upgrade pollution controls at its largest wastewater plants by 2030. The parties have also agreed to form a joint committee to hire scientists and engineers who will identify problematic places in the Chicago River system and come up with a plan to eliminate algal and plant issues. The District has also agreed to extensive monitoring of phosphorus-related problems in the downstream Lower Des Plaines River, as well as a study to determine the feasibility of a tenfold reduction in the MWRD’s phosphorus discharge limit, in line with more stringent limits set elsewhere in the country.

“Our local waters have been a poster child for the national problem of phosphorus pollution, but now we have a chance to be a model for the solution,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If you can fix this in a waterway with a reputation like the Chicago River, it means you can clean up any river. This settlement puts us on a path that can signal an urban river renaissance nationally.”

The Illinois EPA will play a key role in addressing the situation, implementing an enforceable requirement in the District’s discharge permits for its three Chicago-area plants. Attorneys for the environmental organizations expressed confidence that the state Agency, which was extensively involved in the settlement discussions, intends to do so promptly. The Illinois EPA has separately agreed to conduct extensive monitoring of algae-related pollution in the downstream Illinois River.

Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, “This is a major breakthrough in the decades-long effort to restore the Chicago River system to a healthy waterway that supports wildlife, recreation, and economic development in our communities. New pollution controls will make significant reductions in nutrient pollution, the largest remaining pollution problem in these waters, and create good jobs modernizing our water infrastructure. We are excited to partner with MWRD and area communities in implementing this historic agreement in the years to come.”

“This settlement signals a positive change toward improving the way permits are written to protect Illinois waters,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “We expect other dischargers to follow suit and be part of the long-term solution to rid algae overgrowth from our waterways.”

“Here in the Gulf region, the nutrient problem really hits home,” said Matt Rota, Senior Policy Director at New Orleans-based Gulf Restoration Network. “The MWRD has been a very real part of that problem – they’re the largest single contributor to the Gulf Dead Zone right here in our back yard. We’re very pleased that they’re now working with us to be part of the solution.”

“Our members love to paddle on our local waterways, but the disgusting, smelly algae that blooms every summer can really get in the way of their enjoyment,” said Kim Knowles, staff attorney with Prairie Rivers Network. “We’re glad to finally be headed toward a long term solution.”

One of the two lawsuits settled in the agreement, brought in 2011 by Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Prairie Rivers Network, was a Clean Water Act citizen enforcement action alleging that the algae fueled by the District’s phosphorus was causing violations of water quality standards. The other lawsuit, brought by those organizations and three others – Environmental Law & Policy Center, Friends of the Chicago River, and Gulf Restoration Network –successfully challenged the MWRD’s Clean Water Act permits as inadequate to address the problem. Last year, an Illinois appellate court sent the permits’ phosphorus limits back to Illinois EPA for revision.

NRDC was represented pro bono by the law firm Baker & McKenzie, and the Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network were represented by solo attorney, Albert Ettinger.

“This settlement is the natural next step in advancing the health of the Chicago River system and essential to the impacted water bodies downstream,” said Margaret Frisbie, Executive Director, Friends of the Chicago River. “In recent years the river’s physical condition has improved dramatically and it is time to reduce phosphorus to better protect our burgeoning fish populations and other aquatic life at the same we make the river system more appealing to people who live, work, and recreate in, on, and along it.”

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Read Joint Statement with MWRD Here

 

Breaking: ELPC Commends Illinois General Assembly for Approving Preventing Lead in Drinking Water Legislation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2017

Contact: Judith Nemes
(312) 795-3706
JNemes@elpc.org

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“Illinois children have a basic right to safe drinking water in schools and child care centers. The Environmental Law & Policy Center commends the Illinois General Assembly for approving the Preventing Lead in Drinking Water legislation (SB550) today, which requires taking stronger steps to protect children from lead poisoning.”

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center thanks the bill’s co-sponsors, State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Sonya Harper, for prioritizing safe drinking water for Illinois children. We recognize and appreciate the hard and effective work of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and our environmental colleagues in crafting SB550.”

“Toxic levels of lead exposure can cause significant damage to children’s intellectual and emotional development and contribute to behavioral problems. There is no safe level of lead in our drinking water supplies. This Illinois legislation is an important step in the right direction to protect our children’s health.”

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Chicago Tribune: ELPC to Host Pedway Workshop

ChicagoTribuneConfused By Chicago’s Pedway System? It’s Not Just You.
January 9, 2017
By Blair Kamin

With public meetings about improving Chicago’s popular but confusing downtown pedway system set to start this week, it’s time to hear from the real experts on the heated underground network of tunnels and corridors — the people who use it to escape winter’s biting cold.

Many of them responded to my Dec. 25 column about the pedway, which serves thousands of people each weekday and links more than 50 buildings to the CTA’s Red and Blue lines, and the train station beneath Millennium Park. Pedway users voiced concerns about a lack of maps to inconvenient operating hours to poor access for people who are disabled.

A Chicago-based nonprofit, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, will convene the meetings Wednesday and Thursday. It is funding a $125,000 redesign of the main pedway stretch beneath Randolph Street. City officials, who acknowledge that the pedway needs a reboot, are cooperating with the effort, which could introduce concerts and art shows to the underground.

That would be nice. But members of the public want to see these nitty-gritty issues addressed:

Is a Pedway Map Available?

The city’s Department of Transportation has one posted online. So does Google Maps. But neither map is ideal.

The city’s map was last changed in 2013; it will be updated “in the near future,” said a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation. The Google map, while more user-friendly than the city’s, doesn’t include the entire system.

Within the pedway system, there are no paper maps available even though the city’s Department of Transportation promised to provide them 11 years ago as part of a federally funded, nearly $1.5 million city push to make the system easier to navigate. Even in the digital age, hand-held maps would be useful.

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