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Illinois Tomorrow Corridor Planning Grant Program

Name of Tool: Corridor Planning

Implementing Agency: Illinois DOT

Scale of Application: Corridor/subarea planning

Description: In 2000, the Illinois Department of Transportation launched a grant program to help urbanized areas across the state fund planning activities that integrate land development, transportation, and infrastructure needs.

Purpose and Need

In the 1990s, Illinois was struggling against vanishing open spaces, decaying urban infrastructure, increased traffic congestion, and declining quality of life in many of its communities. A lack of balanced growth was seen as the key to the problem. All too often, new transportation projects failed to take into account their impact on nearby land uses, while new development projects failed to take into account the heavy demands they would place on the existing transportation system. "Collectively, we didn't see how far-reaching the impacts of our actions could be until it was too late," recalls Carl Mikyska, Corridor Planning Grant Program Manager at the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).

To address these concerns, Governor George Ryan created the Balanced Growth Cabinet in April 2000. The cabinet was intended to serve as an advisory group to the governor regarding growth and planning strategies. One of its first actions was to launch the Illinois Tomorrow Initiative, a smart growth initiative designed to ensure existing state programs affecting growth were effectively implemented, and new solutions to growth-related problems were given serious consideration. Under the initiative, a grant program was established to assist community land development and growth projects. "Urban areas have experienced phenomenal population and economic growth and that trend is projected to continue," Governor Ryan announced in January 2001 press conference. "We not only have an opportunity but a responsibility to direct that growth in a way that promotes livable communities."


The Illinois Tomorrow Corridor Planning Grant Program is a balanced growth initiative that helps local communities fund plans and studies that integrate land development, transportation, and infrastructure needs. The force behind the initiative is the Governor's Balanced Growth Cabinet, chaired by the Governor's Senior Advisor for Environment and Natural Resources. The permanent membership of the Cabinet consists of the Secretary of IDOT and the directors of the state's Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, Development Finance Authority, and Housing Development Authority.

The program is providing $15 million in grant funding over five years to counties and municipalities in urbanized areas to support planning activities that promote the integration of land use, transportation, and infrastructure facility planning in transportation corridors in Illinois. Grants typically range from $20,000 for a bicycle path study or intersection improvement to $500,000 for corridor-wide planning.

Applications for corridor planning grants are evaluated based on how well they address the following goals:

Application Examples

To date, IDOT has awarded 105 grants to urban areas across Illinois. The projects have been wide-ranging in nature. Three examples of funded projects follow.

Successes and Lessons Learned

IDOT understood early on in the process that when it came to smart or balanced growth, the communities themselves were in a better position than IDOT to decide what was in their best interests. Mr. Mikyska explains: "When ‘smart growth' became part of the transportation language, IDOT looked at what we could do to be part of the solution and utilize these concepts. As IDOT looked at this more, we decided that we could best assist communities by letting them decide what they needed. IDOT understands the concepts… well enough to know that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to balanced growth. What works in one community may not work in another."

IDOT also found that meeting with the recipients of the grant money to explain how the contracting process worked, how to bill the department, and how to handle other administrative details helped minimize mistakes and reduce the likelihood of future problems. This, in turn, contributed to successful outcomes and encouraged more grant applications. "The administration of the grant was, and still is, the most important part," observes Mr. Mikyska. "By being customer-friendly, we have generated increasing levels of interest each year."

More than three years after the first grant money was awarded, the grant program remains popular. Mr. Mikyska concludes: "Looking beyond a community's borders and considering what impacts [transportation decisions] can have on adjacent communities makes this experience invaluable. I hope that the Illinois Tomorrow Corridor Planning Grant program will continue to be funded during these tight financial times. The communities I deal with have the same hope. This has been a great success."

For Further Information


Carl Mikyska
Corridor Planning Grant Program Manager, Illinois Department of Transportation


Updated: 10/20/2015
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