John Yonan, P.E. , Superintendent



The Department of Transportation and Highways maintains and helps support the development of a world class transportation system that spurs economic growth and creates more livable communities. Cook County will achieve this vision through policies and projects including more strategic, innovative and cost effective use of collaboration and capital that connect and support commerce and communities.


Legislative Authorization: Illinois Highway Code – County Administration of Highways (605 ILCS 5/5).

The Illinois Motor Fuel Tax “MFT” Law (35 ILCS 505) dedicates 16.74% of the state’s MFT funds to “counties with over 1 million in population.” The purposes are broadly defined “ to cover the interest of the public in the use of highways, roads, streets, or pedestrian walkways in the county highway system, township and district road system, or municipal street system as defined in the Illinois Highway Code”.

Key Activities and Services

  • Implements Connecting Cook County, the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), and provides a road map for ensuring that transportation improvements lead to improved economic and quality of life outcomes.
  • Plans, designs and acquires needed right of way and constructs county highways and/or aid in the advancement and construction of state, regional and local transportation facilities as well as assets of regional significance in the County.
  • Provides emergency response, in conjunction with Homeland Security and other local municipal partners, to flooding, storms, tree damage and other events to ensure safety for the public as well as providing clear and accessible roads.
  • Reviews and process permits for construction, oversize-overweight haul permits, utility work to ensure county right of way and infrastructure are protected. Additionally, provide technical assistance and review of Building &Zoning permits.
  • Maintains jurisdictional authority for 568 center line miles of highways, 136 bridges, 364 traffic signals, 7 pumping stations, and 4 maintenance facilities
  • Performs snow and ice removal for 1,620 lane miles of pavement and inspect County Highway and various Township bridges as defined by the National Bridge Inspection Standards.
  • Develops a 5-Year Capital Improvement Program, in a transparent and accessible process, that includes a summary of proposed multimodal transportation improvements and their impact on the transportation network and on development opportunities in the County. The LRTP will help direct and identify projects for inclusion in the Department’s 5-Year Plan.
  • Properly maintains staffing of licensed professional engineers to ensure transportation assets are in accordance with the Illinois Department of Transportation’s Memorandum of Understanding.

Discussion of 2017 Department and Program Outcomes 

The Strategic Planning and Policy Program is responsible for advancing the Department’s transportation priorities ensuring the ongoing implementation of the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). Completed in 2016, the LRTP establishes policies for the Department that ensure transportation investments lead to improved economic and quality of life outcomes. This Program, which was created in FY 15, is the catalyst for transforming the Highway Department into a full-spectrum Transportation Department. With transit and freight identified as the top two policy priorities of the LRTP, this Program added one Transit and one Freight Manager positions in the 2017 Budget to provide the necessary specialized expertise. These positions will provide essential staff support to Cook County’s new role as a partner in the CREATE Program, a regional initiative designed to increase the speed and capacity of the region’s freight and passenger railroads, as well as for the development and implementation of County transit and freight plans. The $8.5 million annual Invest in Cook (IIC) grant program was created in FY 17 as a signature strategic initiative for implementing projects consistent with the LRTP. In its inaugural year, the County received 106 applications totaling $40.5 million in requests —all of which were scored using objective performance criteria. Program staff led the effort to train staff from other programs to evaluate, score and rank the project applications and is responsible for advancing the 30 selected projects with internal and external stakeholders.

The Project Development Program develops the annual 5 year Capital Improvement Program. This year the new Oracle migration required all projects, old and new, to be entered into the Oracle program tables. As part of this year’s budget, over 350 projects were entered into Oracle’s Capital Improvement Program, one of the largest and most complex capital programs for the County. Project Development is also responsible for initiating the advancement of projects through preliminary engineering studies, completion of traffic safety studies, preparation of all Department project agreements and land acquisition services.

The Design Program provides the in-house design and the design management of consultant services required in the preparation of plans, specifications and estimate of cost for a project to advance to construction. This Program uses the asset condition data of the County’s jurisdictional infrastructure and annually prioritizes the projects in the Capital Improvement Program. Currently the condition of the roads, bridges, traffic signals and ADA compliant sidewalks assets have a condition rating inventory. Other assets including storm sewers, catch basins and drainage culverts do not yet have a condition rating due to a lack of records beyond the as-built drawings, but will be developed as part of the Asset Management program initiative. This year, two emergency sewer and culvert collapses caused the roadway pavement to fail, forcing the roadway to be closed for detouring vehicles without adequate notice. With the re-alignment of the traffic signal design and maintenance being consolidated into the Project Development program, this Program will now focus on developing the floodplain expertise that is required due to the increase in regional flooding and the numerous roads being closed as result, which predictably is becoming more and more common with climate change.

The Construction Program provides construction management services, documentation and administration for all construction projects according to State and Federal guidelines. This year, the Program, in conjunction with Design staff, reviewed and restructured all of the Department’s detailed specifications that provide the ways and means for the contractor to perform the work. These specification now align with IDOT and most other larger letting agencies so contractor don’t have to buy and build unique line items, as was the practice here for decades, with more competitive bids and a streamlined process for review and approval anticipated as result. This Program is also responsible for the review and issuance of applicant requested construction/maintenance permits for work to be performed within the County right-of way. These permits are broken down into construction, utility and oversize\overweight trucks, and are a source of revenue for the County.

The Maintenance Program provides public works services to for the County roadway system to ensure safe travel, including emergency response to right of way hazards and snow removal operations. This Program maintains the condition and safe travel of these assets through County labor trades, performs year round maintenance activities to ensure safety on the facility which includes, but is not limited to, pavement patching, tree and brush removal, mowing and all necessary work to provide adequate drainage of storm water (culvert, ditch and bridge scupper cleaning). The estimated cost per mile driven in snow operation remains at $20.00/mile, aligning with the target established. Data for metric validation is derived through an Automated Vehicle Locator unit, which tracks the location of our maintenance vehicles as well as operational data to measure salt utilization during winter events. In 2017, under the new countywide financial system, an improved management of expenditures, procurements and contract closeouts has come online creating efficiencies in satisfying the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) project budgeting and project closeout criteria, and more efficient management of the Department’s Special Purpose fund (Motor Fuel Tax) for full utilization of the Business Intelligence it has to offer.

Budget, Cost Analysis and 2018 Strategic Initiatives and Goals

With the adoption of the Long Range Transportation plan, transportation assets vital to a strong economy, regardless of jurisdiction, are being invested in to spur economic growth and enhance quality of life within Cook County. Under prior administrations, the focus had been solely on those assets under County jurisdiction. Today the entire regional transportation network is the Department’s focus when making strategic investments and the Department has maintained the same staffing levels. Through attrition and advancement in technical skills in the profession, the number of staff will see an overall decrease in the years to come.

The Department is required to be staffed with licensed professional engineers in management and at the current staff level positions in order to receive Motor Fuel Tax funds from the State of Illinois. The Department, like many organizations within the industry, previously relied on promoting Engineers that worked on the more complex projects into senior management positions without consideration of their managerial talent. This has never been a successful succession planning best practice in the transportation industry, and the Department continues to change this practice and groom staff for management roles.

Our 2017 Budget created eight (8) new Manager positions with diverse discipline expertise and our 2018 Budget continues to build upon this strategy in order to maintain a generationally balanced Department. In this budget, five (5) new manager positions, five (5) new technical titles and eleven (11) title changes have been proposed to strike this balance. The right size staffing of managerial and technical staff for each specific discipline is an ongoing process improvement by management to ensure fiscal responsibility.

In FY 2018, approximately 52% of our funding is programmed on the advancement of projects through our Multi-Year Capital Improvement Program that is published annually as required by the State. These projects bring our infrastructure up to a state of good repair, provide local and regional expansion projects which yield economic returns. The Department will continue to ensure proper funding is programmed to perform rehabilitation or reconstruction through our investment in asset management technology.

The cost to rehabilitate our infrastructure assets is driven by the level of our routine maintenance efforts. Routine maintenance can extend the useful life of roads and bridges by decades with today’s maintenance programs. The cost to maintain and replace capital equipment needs to include a preventative maintenance program that is accountable and transparent. The lack of accountability has caused the Department to make large financial investments in our fleet and equipment. This year, the capital dollars allocated for equipment replacement is $6.4 million. The inability to retire older unreliable equipment makes down time and repairs a legacy cost that will continue in the near future.

Strategic Initiatives and Goals Cook County began to play a larger role in improving the comprehensive transportation network because of its vital importance to the local and national economy and quality of life. In 2016, Cook County completed the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that outlined a vision for this new role. Connecting Cook County, as the plan is known, established five policy priorities:

  • Prioritizing transit and other transportation alternatives
  • Supporting the region’s role as North America’s freight capital
  • Promoting equal access to opportunities
  • Maintaining and modernizing existing assets
  • Increasing investments in transportation

The Department’s strategic initiative, Invest in Cook, was developed as one way to begin to implement this new vision, even before the Plan’s adoption by the Cook County Board of Commissioners. Started on an ad hoc basis in 2014, Invest in Cook has one goal: to advance stalled local projects that are highly aligned with LRTP priorities. The program achieves this goal by deploying the County’s technical expertise and MFT revenue in support of transportation projects that are consistent with our five priorities. Since starting just over three years ago, Cook County has already advanced ten impactful projects that were stuck or moving in the wrong direction. Cook County’s investment of $58 million in MFT leveraged $119 million in federal, state and other local funding. The 10 projects supported 104,814 of businesses located within five miles of the improvements that employ 840,148 of workers. The four initial South Cook projects totaling $20 million in public investment supported 10 companies with 1,170 employees that made $62 million in private investments to improve their industrial facilities and created 420 new jobs.

2018 strategic initiatives will demonstrate effective stewardship of public money on the following planned and proposed projects:

  • The application of comprehensive investment criteria reflective of the LRTP’s priorities to all proposed County transportation projects. This performance-based approach to investment is an integral part of Connecting Cook County and ensures that limited resources are spent wisely.
  • The preparation of a mobility plan for south Cook centered on the Metra Electric District that is designed to address the subregion’s transportation challenges.
  • In conjunction with stakeholders, implementation of a framework for the redevelopment of County property at the Rosemont Blue Line Station with offices and retail uses in addition to a multimodal transportation center.
  • Completion of a countywide freight plan and of a strategic plan for the freight-related redevelopment of priority industrial parcels along the Lincoln Highway Logistics Corridor in Chicago Heights, Ford Heights and Sauk Village.
  • Creation of a Truck Routing, Infrastructure and Permitting (TRIP) Program and the dedication of technical and financial assistance toward its implementation.
  • A commitment to work with the 134 local municipalities in designing and financing projects. Active cooperation amongst the County and municipalities will allow combined projects to realize savings via economies of scale, leverage of existing funding sources and a development of a prioritization strategy to capitalize on infrastructure investments that produce greater economic outcomes thus demonstrating a responsible use of funds. The Department is right-sized to collaborate across all levels of government and qualified to handle projects of varying complexity. Collaboration is essential to exerting influence, leveraging public dollars, and attracting the private investment that will move the region forward. DOTH’s Project Development unit will successfully implement the realignment of the Traffic Management services within the Department and will oversee all aspects of traffic design, operation and maintenance. This re-alignment will see time benefit savings in the permitting process with external stakeholders, seek to build a new strategic initiative to look at high accident crash locations and take a multi-jurisdictional approach in designing a solution, and advance the framework for Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Budget and Full Time Employee Data