By Kate Reynolds, Sept. 13, 2023
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) announced today that over $11.4 million is being invested via 30 grants for local initiatives and activities to support the planning efforts of long-range transportation projects across the state.
In August, Ottawa was one of those 30 locations awarded a $300,000 State Planning and Research Program grant. Ottawa’s grant will help support planning efforts for North Central Area Transit (NCAT).
Dave Noble, Ottawa’s Director of Economic and Community Development, said North Central Illinois Council of Governments (NCICG) assisted Wayne A. Eichelkraut, Jr., Commissioner of Accounts & Finance, in applying for the grant last March/April. The grant will support research into long-range plans for NCAT, the county transportation service. NCAT provides door-to-door, origin-to-destination public bus transportation for residents of LaSalle County.
“We need to do a La Salle County study on the service because we need to know if NCAT meeting the needs of our riders,” Noble said. “Just one example of what we want to find out is are there gaps in the services provided? We think we’re doing a good job but how do we know?”
Other concerns include the service in general. Noble suggested the possibility of partnering with other organizations to prevent duplicated services.
“I’m sure you have heard talk (throughout the years) of a commuter rail coming to the La Salle area,” Noble said. “If it ever happens, how would we arrange for NCAT to get people without cars to the train station? These are just some of the planning that needs to be considered for our transportation needs. We have to think of both short, mid and long-range plans. That’s why we’re happy to have been awarded this grant.
Since at least 2008, there has been discussion on a future commuter rail service project. If constructed, it would link western La Salle County with Joliet’s METRA station, which would link to Chicago. Planned stops include Channahon, Minooka, Morris, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, and Utica. A Phase I study was completed in 2003 and took six months. Phase II is pending.