Transportation

Openlands believes that it is vital to design transportation solutions with nature. Our roads, rail, transit, and trails should support livable, walkable communities that preserve and enhance open space. Combining our expertise in ecology, restoration, law, and planning with the insight of dozens of other conservation organizations, Openlands has successfully championed smart infrastructure policy for over 30 years.


Openlands has a history of collaborating with many different interests – from government agencies to agricultural and intermodal businesses – to transform damaging transportation projects into sound solutions that preserve the integrity of our communities, farmland and open spaces.

  • Openlands works to transform unused roads and railways within natural areas into new trails and open space for all to enjoy. Former transportation routes often leave physical barriers that harm wildlife and they can even be restored to highways or freight lines, but as public trails, they enhance habitat and become exceptional places to get outside, such as the Old Plank Road Trail or the Illinois Prairie Path.
  • In 2005, Openlands championed the establishment of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) to better integrate large scale transportation projects into a consensus-borne regional vision. We continue to assist CMAP with the implementation of the GOTO 2040 plan and the development of the ONTO 2050 plan, both of which guide infrastructure development, address climate change through mitigation and adaptation, and preserve our region’s web of natural areas.
  • Since 2012, we have organized a coalition of 30 partners opposing the proposed Illiana Tollway, a short-sighted $1.5 billion project that would pave over thousands of acres of prime farmland, pollute pristine rivers, and ruin habitat for state and federally protected wildlife at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Openlands brings the power of this coalition to the table to collaborate with industry, developers, unions, and community representatives on a lasting transportation solution that honors the natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage of our region.
  • Since 2016, Openlands advocated for the federal Surface Transportation Board to reject the Great Lakes Basin Transportation railroad, a proposal which would have pulled our region’s industrial belt out into the middle of our farm fields, threatened communities’ drinking water, and destroyed some of the most beautiful natural areas in Illinois.

Today, Openlands and its partners continue to lead dialogue with industry, local farmers, and government officials as to how to protect nationally-renowned natural resources while effectively managing our commercial needs.