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Gov. Quinn Unveils Six-Year, $12B Ill. Road Program

Fri April 15, 2011 - Midwest Edition
Deanna Bellandi

CHICAGO (AP) Illinois plans to repair more than 3,200 mi. (5,150 km) of road and replace or fix 611 bridges over the next six years as part of the latest update to the state road program announced April 7 by Gov. Pat Quinn.

“We understand that we’re the transportation capital of the United States ... and we have to invest to make sure we have safe roads, safe bridges and great highways,” Quinn said from the site of a major road project in Chicago. The timing of the announcement was tied to a law that required the state to announce its long-term road program, he said.

Construction costs are estimated at $11.5 billion for an extensive list of projects, which include design work for the Illiana Expressway from Interstate 55 in Will County to Interstate 65 in Indiana; bridge repair work on Interstate 24 over the Ohio River near Metropolis; and resurfacing of Illinois 128 from the Shelby County line to US 40 in Effingham and Fayette Counties.

“Two-thirds of the program is allocated to maintaining our existing roads and bridges with the other one-third used for ... system congestion mitigation and system expansion,” state Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Hannig said.

The road program would be paid for with federal, state and local funds.

Other work in the construction program includes bridge replacement on Interstate 70 over the Kaskaskia River in Fayette County, bridge widening on Interstate 74 at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Lincoln Street in Galesburg and additional lanes on U.S. 20 west of Freeport to west of Illinois 26 in Stephenson County.

The governor’s office estimated the construction projects will create about 155,000 jobs, all part of Illinois’ recovery from the recession.

“The construction and the repair of our highways and our bridges is very, very important for jobs in Illinois. We believe in public works. That is a good way to get our economy back on track,” Quinn said.

But a lot of work would have been sidetracked without the six-year $31 billion capital construction program Quinn signed in 2009. Of the new $11.5 billion program, $7.2 billion is federal money, and more than half of the state portion — $2 billion — is from the plan called “Illinois Jobs Now!”

An appellate court ruled in January that the funding source for that plan is unconstitutional, a decision Quinn has appealed to the Supreme Court. But the portion of the revenue from higher taxes on liquor, candy, and some personal care products, continues to be collected.

“It’s our belief that the courts will rule in our favor and until someone tells me to the contrary, we’re going to move forward as quickly as we can with this road program,” Hannig told reporters later in a conference call.

Transportation officials acknowledged that a description of the needed projects the state can’t afford would “fill a room” and Hannig said authorities are looking at alternative funding sources. Lawmakers in both Illinois and Indiana have approved a private toll road to build the Illiana Expressway, for example.

And the interstate highway system, the oldest parts of which are more than half-a-century old, needs to be rebuilt, Hannig said, and must involve federal intervention.

“A lot of these roads began and were built under President Eisenhower,” Hannig said, “and they’ve basically run their useful life.”

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