The Chicago Metropolitan Agency of Planning (CMAP) this month launched a website that aims to help the public become more involved in identifying and prioritizing infrastructure investments.

The CMAP site, allows taxpayers to "peek under the hood" of the Chicago transportation system, says CMAP spokesman Tom Garritano. Chicago loses $7 billion in fuel and productivity because of congestion, bad roads and missed transit connections. Old rail infrastructure causes about 7,800 hours of delay each weekday for more than 380,000 motorists, says CMAP.

CMAP's criticism of officials who make public works decisions, like the Illinois Dept. of Transportation, is that it is often "unclear which data [officials] use to evaluate modernization and expansion projects or how these data enter into the decision-making process," Garritano says. "Data-driven, collaborative planning should lead to clear transportation priorities."

Much of the data that animates CMAP's mobility tool has never been shared with the public, Garritano says. CMAP says that taxpayers deserve to understand how projects are selected, proposed and constructed.

Public participation in projects before the bid stage should lead to a smoother process in which officials have prioritized projects based on data and feedback, said Sue Klawans, vice president of Gilbane Construction. CMAP's mobility tool is on the cutting edge of facilitating that process, she says.

According to CMAP, pavement is rated "unacceptable" on more than half of major streets. Almost 10% of Chicago's 3,400 bridges contain at least one load-bearing section in poor condition. The Regional Transportation Authority said in a January report that $36.1 billion in capital spending is needed over the next ten years to address the region's "deferred investment."