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Cook County road-marker program is raising signs of concern
Commissioner Larry Suffredin says board was misled when it approved $120,000 contract

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by John Hilkevitch

Two Cook County Board commissioners requested a legal opinion Wednesday about whether new roadway markers that drivers find confusing are required under federal or state laws.

Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the board wasn't told about the route markers when it approved a contract last month to replace existing signage.

Suffredin said he will seek to halt the posting of the signs if they are not mandated.

Suffredin and County Commissioner Michael Quigley asked the Cook County state's attorney to determine if the county is required under law to post the markers.

Their request follows a story in Wednesday's Tribune that reported about 1,300 markers are being installed at a cost of $120,000, paid for by county motor fuel taxes.

Neither the Illinois Department of Transportation nor the Federal Highway Administration require or recommend the markers, officials from both agencies told the Tribune.

The markers provide no information to help drivers identify their location or plot their trips. They display the county name and alpha-numerical codings that are used internally by the Cook County Highway Department. For example, Crawford Avenue in Skokie and other northern suburbs is designated on the markers as "W43."

County officials said the markers provide a public service by informing drivers that they are using a county-maintained road.

Suffredin also said that the chief of the county Highway Department, Rupert Graham, misled him by stating that the federal and state governments require the route markers on roads owned and maintained by Cook County.

"This was not a conscious vote by the County Board," Suffredin said. "It appeared to be an annual restoration contract, and nobody indicated it would be used for these markers, which are confusing and a waste of money."

The County Board needs to exercise better scrutiny over future county Highway Department contracts, he said.



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