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IDOT unveils highway wish list

By Christi Parsons
Tribune staff reporter
Published May 3, 2005, 5:11 PM CDT


SPRINGFIELD -- Unveiling a new $9 billion plan, state transportation officials today pledged to keep Illinois roads and especially bridges in tip-top shape over the next six years but stopped short of outlining any major projects.

Because the state is short of cash and the future flow of federal money is uncertain, the new road plan does not feature the buffet of massive construction projects of the previous administration of Gov. George Ryan.

But Illinois Department of Transportation officials said they still are trying to chip away at congestion problems in the Chicago area while spreading the available resources fairly around the state.

Agency Director Tim Martin also said he is pinning hopes on the state's congressional delegation to secure federal road money for state projects, and on state lawmakers who will have the chance to approve bond sales for bonus projects during the final weeks of their spring session.

"I think it's realistic," Martin said of the proposed highway improvement program, calling the plan "fiscally constrained" in comparison to Ryan's sweeping Illinois First building program.

"Illinois First was a big bonded program that had a beginning and an end," Martin said. "Now we're back to a reasonable program that balances maintaining the system with economic development."

The plan contemplates spending more than $1.7 billion in the coming year, not including an additional $350 million that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration wants lawmakers to approve in bonds for construction projects.

As drafted, the plan steps up maintenance so that, in six years, at least 90 percent of state roads and 93 percent of bridges will be in good or better shape -- a slight improvement over current conditions in both cases.

The plan does not propose ambitious capital projects in hopes of capturing federal matching funds. In particular, the program neither calls for construction of a western access to O'Hare International Airport, nor does it propose work on a proposed road to the airport from the north and south.

Martin said he did not want to propose projects without saying decisively where the money would come from.

"What it does is raise expectations of the public," said Martin. "You'd have all those projects out there without a funding source."

Still, he said, his agency could put together such a proposal quickly if money is available when Congress finishes the federal transportation bill, possibly as early as this summer.

More information on the state highway plan is available at IDOT's Web site.
 

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Its funny how the state can cough up $9 billion for roads and bridges but when the CTA needs a little help they get chastized and the coffers suddenly dry up.
Typical Illinois bulls**t :bash:
 
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