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Illinois Organization Supports Governor’s Infrastructure Plan

Sat February 25, 2006 - Midwest Edition
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A wide-ranging group of business, labor, industry and local government organizations announced its support for Governor Rod Blagojevich’s $2.3 billion transportation infrastructure program, stating Illinois has significant needs for roads and public transportation improvements.

Transportation For Illinois Coalition (TFIC) co-chairman Douglas Whitley said, “This program will put people to work and help maintain the state’s economic viability. Without this program, the Department of Transportation will only be able to sustain a minimal construction program of just maintenance and repair of our roadways and bridges.”

TFIC said the governor’s “Jobs For Illinois” program is a good first step toward addressing Illinois’ transportation needs.

The Coalition stated the bonding proposal will:

• Ensure the Department of Transportation’s annual highway program can do more than just meet minimal maintenance and repair of roads and bridges.

• Ensure the state can undertake new projects to ease congestion, construct a number of new four-lane roads and make needed road and bridge improvements.

• Provide the necessary state and local matching funds for projects earmarked in the 2005 federal highway and transit law (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU).

• Provide initial state funding to reduce rail congestion in the Chicago area through the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE).

• Provide new capital funds for urban public transportation systems.

The Coalition also believes the state’s road fund revenues can support an increase in the debt service required to finance the new bonds.

At the peak, that debt service will total about 26 percent of the road fund.

The coalition believes this is a reasonable and acceptable amount in light of the current borrowing rates.

The Transportation For Illinois Coalition, a group of nearly 70 organizations, concluded that the governor’s bond initiative represents a timely and needed investment in our infrastructure.

“While the proposed program is a good first step, TFIC is convinced it must do more to meet the state’s growing needs,” Whitley said.

The Illinois Department of Transportation estimates between $2.6 and $4.1 billion is needed annually to make progress on the highway system.

While the proposal will provide $425 million in new capital funds for transit, the Regional Transportation Authority estimates that $1 billion is needed annually to maintain its transit system in existing condition.

TFIC co-chair Margaret Blackshere said, “The governor’s bonding program is critical since it provides the needed funds to match federal dollars for public transportation improvements. Without approval this spring, we will lose another valuable highway construction season and the jobs that are generated.”

TFIC concluded that the true investment required to meet the state’s transportation system needs exceeds the funding that will be available through the Governor’s transportation bonding program.

The “Jobs For Illinois” program provides another step toward meeting the essential investment in the state’s infrastructure.

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