Leaders of metropolitan Chicago’s seven counties today voted unanimously to adopt GO TO 2040, the region’s first comprehensive plan since Daniel Burnham’s in 1909.  Designed to guide development and investment decisions through mid-century and beyond, the plan’s implementation will now be led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), which was formed for this purpose in 2005 at the urging of local elected officials and business leaders. 

GO TO 2040 seeks to strategically align public policies and investments, maximizing the benefits of scarce resources as the region adds more than 2 million new residents by 2040. The plan, which is available at www.cmap.illinois.gov/2040, reflects more than three years of research and careful deliberation by CMAP, its partners, and stakeholders, including feedback from more than 35,000 residents. 

“As a region, we cannot take our quality of life for granted,” said Gerald Bennett, CMAP board chairman and mayor of Palos Hills.  “Our 284 communities and seven counties must work together to address our big regional challenges, which require coordinated local solutions.  How we respond will be key to preserving our status as one of the world’s few global centers.  GO TO 2040 is the region’s best chance to achieve prosperity that can be sustained for generations to come.” 

Its four themes are Livable Communities, Human Capital, Efficient Governance, and Regional Mobility, which include detailed recommendations on how to address issues such as land use, housing, water and energy, parks and open space, food systems, education and workforce development, state and local tax policy, and transportation. 

“The strength of our communities and economy are determined by issues that are highly interrelated,” said Randy Blankenhorn, CMAP executive director.  “For example, promoting a good balance of jobs and housing will give residents the option to live nearer to where they work, which lets them spend less time commuting.  Improved access to transit helps people and businesses save on travel expenses, keeping cars off the road and reducing energy consumption, which also improves the environment.  With GO TO 2040, our region now has a comprehensive approach to solving these challenges.” 

The plan seeks to make effective use of public resources, including coordinated investments for infrastructure such as transportation.  While its primary transportation emphasis is to maintain and modernize rather than to expand the system, GO TO 2040 contains a handful of major capital projects selected to maximize regional mobility and economic development. (See accompanying CMAP and GO TO 2040 fact sheet.)  Of the estimated $385 billion available for transportation through the year 2040, less than three percent — $10.5 billion — is available for new projects, and increasing costs of construction mean that the region must carefully focus its dollars.  

“With resources so constrained, this region literally can’t afford not to implement GO TO 2040,” said Blankenhorn.  “The plan comes at a pivotal moment, and most of our challenges are the result of planning decisions made or — too often — deferred in recent decades.  Instead of drifting toward an uncertain future, we need to seize this opportunity to make some tough choices and work together toward the plan’s clearly stated regional goals.”  

GO TO 2040 points out that the region has grown in ways that put pressure on infrastructure (including transportation) and natural resources (including water and energy).  CMAP estimates that more than 100,000 acres within municipal boundaries are vacant or under-used. GO TO 2040 promotes the redevelopment of this land with a mix of residential and non-residential uses, which could accommodate half of the region’s projected growth (about 1.2 million people). 

Calling the region’s residents “its greatest renewable resource,” GO TO 2040 asserts that systems of education and workforce development are not keeping up with other major centers of commerce.  “We need to develop skilled workers to help local businesses innovate so they can compete in the global marketplace,” Blankenhorn said.  

The plan brings a level of certainty that is good for business, according to Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.  “Implementing the GO TO 2040 plan will instill confidence by clearly defining the region’s goals across a wide range of topics that affect economic competitiveness and quality of life,” Roper said.  “Business leaders appreciate the way CMAP has approached the broad-based challenges that shape our economic prosperity.  The comprehensive plan gives metropolitan Chicago a competitive advantage over other regions that haven’t taken such a long-term, strategic view.” 

The plan points out that, with 1,226 units of local government in the region, increased coordination — or, when feasible, consolidation — of services is a necessity.  It also recommends the reform of state and local tax policies, which, among other drawbacks, the plan says often promote “big box” retail development that has far fewer regional economic benefits compared to office or industrial developments.  As part of implementing GO TO 2040, the agency will now form a task force of tax and fiscal experts — reporting to the CMAP Board — responsible for recommending actions to restructure and modernize the Illinois tax code. 

GO TO 2040 calls for government agencies to improve access to information, becoming more accountable to residents.  Toward that goal, CMAP has partnered with The Chicago Community Trust to launch a new web resource that will be launched in November.  Called “MetroPulse,” the system will provide extensive data resources to help decision makers and to measure the region’s progress in implementing GO TO 2040.  The Trust also provided additional strategy research — in areas such as food systems, workforce development, and public health — that complemented CMAP expertise in other GO TO 2040 topics. 

GO TO 2040 exists as two documents: a full-length plan that is for policy experts, and a shorter plan that is for broader audiences.  Both versions call on local officials, businesses, and other stakeholder groups to implement recommendations that — while very specific — have broad implications for residents’ daily lives.  To illustrate that point, CMAP has profiled several residents whose stories help to bring the plan to life.  (For video profiles and other multimedia content, see www.cmap.illinois.gov/ipk_10-13-10/.)  

About CMAP.  The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is the comprehensive regional planning organization for the northeastern Illinois counties of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. By state and federal law, CMAP is responsible for producing the region’s official, integrated plan for land use and transportation. The agency’s innovative GO TO 2040 planning campaign develops and implements strategies to shape the region’s transportation system and development patterns, while also addressing the natural environment, economic development, housing, education, human services, and other factors shaping quality of life. See www.cmap.illinois.gov for more information.