The new 7th Ward alderman has been picked: Natashia Holmes, "a former Illinois Department of Transportation special projects manager" and a project manager at Metro Strategies, a planning/policy shop based in Glen Ellyn.

But her experience goes a lot deeper than that. She has a master's in community planning, and was senior transportation associate at the Metropolitan Planning Council; she was the point person for the rural Illinois JARC program (Job Access and Reverse Commute, PDF); managed the Chicagoland TRIPS project, a sort of proto-Goroo that provided public-transit-based directions from kiosks in the dark days before smartphones; and shows up in a number of deep-in-the-weeds transit planning projects, like the Freight Advisory Council of Chicago Metropolis 2020 (PDF) and regional transportation planning (PDF).

There are a number of big transit projects scheduled for the 7th Ward; last February, John Greenfield of Grid Chicago talked to Sandi Jackson about them.

In 2003, Holmes co-authored the MPC/Business Leaders for Transportation intermodal transit agenda and support of the reauthorization of the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which wasn't reauthorized; it focuses a great deal on rail freight, which is going to be a critical and frustrating issue going forward:

“By establishing this division [Public and Intermodal Transportation], IDOT took the first step toward ensuring that Illinois, the nation’s transportation hub, has the capacity to handle a projected 100 percent increase in freight traffic by 2020,” said Natashia Holmes, MPC senior transportation associate. “This strategic restructuring reflects IDOT’s increasing emphasis on exploring new and innovative solutions to address this projected increase proactively – today, instead of tomorrow, when it will be too late.”

In particular, as part of its responsibilities, DPIT will serve as the lead agency responsible for implementing the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program. The nationally recognized CREATE is a $1.5 billion rail infrastructure improvement plan for northeastern Illinois that MPC and Business Leaders for Transportation strongly support.

The full report is here (PDF); it argues for the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, intercity rail funding, grade-crossing improvement, mixed-use zoning, and more.

And she arrives just in time for a brutal CTA spring schedule. The Red Line south of Chinatown goes offline this spring, which may coincide with the rebuilding of the Wells Street bridge and the havoc that will wreak on the Purple and Brown Line trains.

Meanwhile, IDOT has blocked the city's bike lanes, Streetsblog Chicago reports: "So why is IDOT delaying designs that several American cities have already been implementing for years? The agency says it wants to measure safety impacts based on robust statistical evidence, and that three years provides a representative sample." Streetsblog also has a good map of what IDOT has control over.