Sierra Club Home Page   Environmental Update  
chapter button
Explore, enjoy and protect the planet
Click here to visit the Member Center.         
Take Action
Get Outdoors
Join or Give
Inside Sierra Club
Press Room
Politics & Issues
Sierra Magazine
Sierra Club Books
Apparel and Other Merchandise
Contact Us

Join the Sierra ClubWhy become a member?

Stopping Sprawl campaign home page - click here.
Get an overview. Sign up for an e-newsletter. Find out what you can do to help.
Environmental Update Main
Sprawl Main
In This Section
Sprawl Overview
Reports & Factsheets
Activist Resources
Get Involved!
Articles & Research
Population and Sprawl

Get The Sierra Club Insider
Environmental news, green living tips, and ways to take action: Subscribe to the Sierra Club Insider!


Stop Sprawl
1998 Sierra Club Sprawl Report: 30 Most Sprawl-Threatened Cities

Ten Most Sprawl-Threatened Large Cities
Number Ten: Chicago

While the Chicago area population rose 9 percent between 1990 and 1996, the land area expanded 40 percent.

Between 1990 and 1996, Chicago metropolitan land area growth outpaced population growth more than four-fold. While the area's population rose 9 percent, urban land area expanded a full 40 percent during that time. This recent expansion has helped Chicago become one of the nation's worst metropolitan regions for sprawling, low density development and poor land use.

As malls and parking lots take over the landscape, the Chicago area loses its fertile farmland. In the last ten years, 15 percent of the region's farm fields have disappeared, and that trend continues. According to the American Farmland Trust, the land between Chicago and Milwaukee is the third-most threatened farmland in the country because of encroaching development.

Chicago's tollway authority believes jobs will flow into the suburbs in the next two decades, and job growth will put 48,000 additional cars a year on the tollway (Chicago Tribune). This growth will gridlock a highway system unequipped to handle the number of car trips needed to move people from home to office.

Several projects are pending that could worsen Chicago's landscape. The proposed 12-mile extension to the North-South Tollway (I-355) into pastoral south suburban Will County as well as a the north extension of Illinois Highway 53 through central Lake County have been halted by a court for now, but could move forward in the future. Kane County is considering adding a series of new bridges over the Fox River to handle growing congestion on its 22 other bridges. These new spans would harm wetlands and damage the integrity of historic sites.

Some of the surrounding counties and outlying villages are attempting to grapple with their sprawl problems and remain livable, however. Lake County is trying to preserve its green space, wetlands and lakes as well its small-town feel, while the number of people who want to live in the area - precisely because of these characteristics - is expected to double in the next two decades. The well-known Prairie Crossing subdivision in north suburban Grayslake is built "in harmony" with the environment. Joliet's Bicentennial Park contains bike paths, and Downers Grove's Main Street runs train and bus lines to retail centers.

In November, 1997, DuPage County voters approved, by a 60-40 margin, a $70 million bond referendum which will protect 2,000 acres of open space. Will, Kane, Lake and possibly Cook counties may be holding such referenda next spring.

Read the Report | Clickable Sprawl Map | Sprawl-Threatened Cities

Up to Top | Printer-friendly version of this page