Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - July 14, 2011

U of Trustees Will Vote to Close Aviation Next Week

University of Illinois Interim Chancellor Robert Easter confirms the university's Board of Trustees will vote next week during a meeting in Chicago to close its Institute of Aviation.

A panel of administrators and faculty made the recommendation in February as part of a series of cost-cutting measures known as "Stewarding Excellence." But members of the Institute's Alumni Advisory Board say the trustees are ignoring a vote by the U of I's Faculty Senate to keep the facility open. Even though the proposal to close the Institute failed by three votes, Easter calls that tally 'essentially a tie".

"We have other bodies, the Stewarding Excellence process, the Faculty Committee on courses and curriculum, they have supported the decision," he said. "We had to arrive at some decision, so we decided to move it forward."

Easter notes that the Institute's degree program was only established in the late 90's, while the U of I has been teaching people to fly since the 1940's. Easter said the U of I still wants to find a way to offer pilot training, and it is working with a local community college to provide those courses. He would not say whether that school is Parkland College. Easter also said the closure date for Aviation would be 'several years' away.

"We have a very real obligation and commitment to continue to operate the educational program until the students have had a reasonable opportunity to complete their degrees." he said.

Karen Koenig with the Institute's alumni panel said there has been an effort to merge the Institute with another unnamed college. But Easter said any progress at a meeting between the two parties scheduled for Wednesday will likely be too late to change the outcome of the Board of Trustees vote next week.

Koenig said the powers that be are ignoring the actions of others, and not giving Aviation enough time to respond, since the Institute's alumni panel only learned of administrators' plans on Tuesday.

"The original proposal made by (Easter) to close the institute is the one being sent to the trustees, and that totally circumnavigates the votes that were made by the University Senate, the Student Senate, the Faculty-Student Senate, and the Educational Policy Committee," Koenig said. "Those are not being considered."

Dana Dann-Messier is President of Koening's advisory group. He says the university's efforts to shut down aviation started in 2005, when instructor and director positions started becoming vacant and weren't refilled. Dann-Messier says those actions are hurting the business.

"It's apocolyptic," he said. "Those are the words the industry is using for the pilot shortage on the horizon. And for the administration to be engaging in these kinds of games when the future of air transportation is at stake, and we can be a leader in that future, it's mind boggling. That's all I can say."

Staff and alumni from the Institute of Aviation plan to rally Thursday morning before the Board of Trustees meeting.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - July 13, 2011

Study Shows Race a Factor in Illinois Traffic Stops

A new study shows race could play a role in traffic stops across Illinois.

An Illinois Department of Transportation and University of Illinois at Chicago study of traffic stops in 2010 found that minorities are more likely to be cited or to be asked for a consent search than white drivers. The research is part of a state rule that requires police to record the details of traffic stops and report them to the DOT. For the last few years, the research has revealed similar results.

Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said the ACLU wants state police to get rid of consent searches entirely. A consent search is when an officer asks the driver if he or she can search the vehicle. Unlike other searches done by police, a vehicle search can be done without a warrant. All the officer needs is consent from the driver.

"Given the danger of conscious or unconscious bias being in play, we think that consent searches always will yield a disparate impact against minority motorists. It simply is too subjective a technique to apply," Schwartz said.

In June of this year, the ACLU of Illinois filed a complaint to the United States Department of Justice. According to Schwartz, the ACLU wants there to be a federal investigation into Illinois State Police practices, and for the US DOJ to issue a ban on the use of consent searches.

Schwartz said the new study confirms the need for such action.

"We think that it's a technique that can't be cured or reformed," he said.

Monique Bond, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police Department, said they are in the process of reviewing the raw data and expect an internal review to be completed within the coming weeks. She said that no decision had been made to cease consent searches.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 30, 2011

Getting Rural Residents Where They Need to Be

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District gives passengers about 10 million rides each year. But as Dan Petrella of CU-CitizenAccess reports, for Champaign County's rural residents, getting where they need to go isn't as easy as walking to the nearest bus stop.

(Photo by Dan Petrella)

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 27, 2011

Quinn Signs Seat-Belt Measure Into Law

Illinois drivers and passengers need to buckle up because Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday signed a new Illinois law requiring everyone riding in a vehicle to wear their seat belts.

"We want to save lives and this legislation is important to doing that," Quinn said at a bill-signing ceremony in Chicago.

The new law requiring everyone to wear their seatbelts goes into effect Jan. 1. Currently, people riding in the front seat of a vehicle have to wear their seat belts, but people in the back seat are only required to be belted in if they are under 18.

Officials said it was the latest measure to improve safety on Illinois roads. Others actions by the state have included a ban on texting while driving and increased training for student drivers.

Secretary of State Jesse White said making rear passengers wear seat belts will protect not only them but those people in the front seat as well.

"If by chance they are not buckled up they could become a human missile for those in the front of the vehicle," White said.

Buses, taxicabs and emergency vehicles are exempt from the new law.

Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat from Chicago, was one of the sponsors of the measure along with the late GOP Rep. Mark Beaubien, the seven-term state lawmaker who died earlier this month.

Beaubien, of Barrington Hills, collapsed while at a House GOP event with family, friends and colleagues. Beaubien's family attended the bill signing.

His widow, Dee Beaubien, said the measure was "extremely important" to him and all the people who helped get it passed.

"He considered them legacy," she said.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 20, 2011

Ill. Sens. Introduce Competing Transportation Privatization Bills

Illinois' two U.S. senators are behind clashing proposals about privatizing transportation assets.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said a plan he unveiled Monday would open up another $100 billion in private money for airports, railroads and highways. Illinois' junior senator also said the measure would ease federal restrictions, making it easier for local governments to sell transportation assets, such as Illinois' 54 rest-stops and airports, to private bidders.

"You'll see London, Paris, Rome, Berlin [are] all partnership airports now," he said. "They have found that this is a way to tremendously enhance their ... services and infrastructure."

Kirk's plan comes just a few days after Sen. Dick Durbin, his chamber's No. 2 Democrat, put forth a bill that would likely make privatization a lot harder. Durbin's proposal would make municipalities pay back any federal grants they received for big transportation projects if they're planning to privatize. It would also give the federal government a "seat at the table" when municipalities are considering privatization, Durbin said.

But Kirk said Durbin's proposal likely won't fly in the Capitol, especially given the GOP majority in the House. In a statement, Durbin spokeswoman Christina Mulka said Democrat has found a "good amount of support" for his plan. While Durbin's bill deals exclusively with existing public transportation infrastructure, Kirk's would deal with new projects, Mulka said, adding that Durbin sees "a lot of common ground between the two bills."

The debate over privatization is especially poignant for Chicagoans, who have seen their fair share of controversial privatization deals. The city sold its parking meter system to a private company in 2008 for $1.15 billion, only to have a scathing report by the city's inspector general declare that Richard M. Daley's administration could have gotten more money out of the deal.

A plan to privatize Midway Airport fell through in 2009 due to the economic downturn. That plan has been in a holding pattern since, with with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration in no rush to revive it.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - June 13, 2011

WWII B-17 Makes Emergency Landing Outside Chicago

A World War II bomber made what appeared to be an emergency landing in a cornfield Monday and all seven people on board escaped before it was consumed by fire, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

"The plane departed the airport, noted an emergency and the pilot made what appears to be an emergency landing, after which the plane was consumed by fire," FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in an email. None of the passengers were injured.

The accident happened right after the plane took off from the Aurora Municipal Airport and the plane landed in an Oswego cornfield outside Chicago, Cory said. The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.

Jim Barry, who lives in a nearby subdivision, told the Chicago Tribune he heard a low-flying plane and looked to see it. The engine on the bomber's left wing was on fire, he said.

"Not a lot of flames, just more smoke than flames," Barry said.

The pilot reported a fire shortly after taking off, Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle said.

"He attempted to make a return to the airport, but couldn't make it so he put it down in a corn field," Kunkel told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Firefighters from Oswego, Sugar Grove and Plainfield responded to the scene. Fire officials said they were having difficulty getting to the aircraft because of wet fields.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was made in 1944. Authorities say it is registered to the Liberty Foundation in Miami.

An email to the Liberty Foundation from The Associated Press seeking confirmation wasn't immediately returned.

(AP Photo/Bob Mudra via the Daily Herald)

Categories: History, Transportation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 12, 2011

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Racing Tradition Kept Alive in Farmer City

LIFE ON ROUTE 150: Racing Tradition Kept Alive in Farmer City

Traveling along Route 150, you've got to obey the rules of the road, but at one popular hangout in Farmer City, those same rules don't apply. Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers took a trip there for the wild and fast world of dirt late model racing as part of the series "Life on Route 150."

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

Audio Slideshow of the Farmer City Raceway

Historical Photos of the Farmer City Raceway

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Categories: History, Sports, Transportation

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - June 02, 2011

Study Explores Chicago-Champaign High-Speed Rail

The University of Illinois will spent the next several months researching the feasibility of a high-speed passenger rail line between Chicago and Champaign.

Governor Pat Quinn on Thursday announced the $1.25 million study for 220-mph trains. Such a line could also include cities like St. Louis and Indianapolis, and is meant to compliment an already planned 110-mph network connecting Chicago to other Midwest cities.

U of I President Michael Hogan says such a train can have a huge impact on regional economic development throughout the Chicago area. Hogan says this is also an area where the U of I can make a huge difference in the world of freight and passenger rail.

"The possibility of a high-speed rail link, bringing our two campuses closer together, facilitating that kind of big science and collaboration, and not just in engineering and hard sciences, but in the medical sciences as well," said Hogan. "The impact that could have in tranforming an already great university into a super power university."

The U of I, Illinois Department of Transportation, and a special advisory group will provide input throughout the course of the study. The Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, Rick Harnish, sits on the panel.

"Turkey is already running bullet trains," said Harnish. "There's 4,000 miles in Europe. There's 4,000 miles in Asia. And there's been bullet trains in Japan since 1964. All of those countries are enjoying faster, lower cost, and more reliable travel than we are today. This is what keeps U of I on the global map."

The study will involve the U of I's Rail Transportation and Engineering Center and the Department of Economics on the Urbana campus, and the Department of Urban Planning on the university's Chicago campus. The results from the study are expected late next year.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - May 12, 2011

U of I Professor’s Study Links Obesity to Surge in Vehicle Use

A study spearheaded by a University of Illinois professor shows a link between time spent behind the wheel and U.S. obesity rates.

In Sheldon Jacobson's research, he and two students looked at national statistics from 1985 through 2007, and learned that vehicle use correlated in the 99-percent range with national obesity rates. The professor of computer science who also holds appointments in engineering and pediatrics says it's a result of the constraints many adults have in their everyday life.

"Over the last half century, we have built our entire infrastructure around getting more done with less time," said Jacobson. "And the natural choice that individuals make then is to take the mode of transportation that will get us from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible."

Jacobson says if every motorist in the U.S. drove 1 mile less per day, the obesity rate would drop just over 2-percent in six years. The professor also says he's convinced that so-called tactical interventions, like removing soda machines from schools and adding recess time aren't enough. He says the study shows a direct association between energy, transportation, urban planning, and public health.

His study appears in the journal 'Transport Policy.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - May 09, 2011

Chicago Lands Millions for High Speed Rail Projects to St. Louis and Detroit

(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it's giving Amtrak $404 million to expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest.

The money will go toward making upgrades along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor and to constructing new segments of 110 mph track between Chicago and Detroit.

Once completed, the two projects are expected to reduce travel times and improve safety.

The Chicago-to-Detroit enhancements are expected to shave 30 minutes off of passenger travel times between the two destinations, and the government claims the construction phase of the project will create 1,000 jobs.

The money was part of $2 billion originally earmarked for high-speed rail links between Tampa and Orlando, Florida.

But Florida Governor Rick Scott canceled the project earlier this year, making the money available to be used in other parts of the nation.

The Department of Transportation targeted rail projects in 15 states to receive the additional funds. 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak had all applied for the dollars.

The largest share of the money - nearly $800 million - will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on critical segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor.

"The investments we're making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Advocates of high-speed rail are scheduled to go to the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 19th to lobby state officials to support enhanced passenger rail service in the state.


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