Unfortunately, 16% of the new roads and bridges funding will go towards expansion

JB Pritzker at yesterday's press conference. Photo: IDOT
JB Pritzker at yesterday's press conference. Photo: IDOT

Yesterday governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation released the department’s annual Multi-Year Plan of road and bridge projects across the state, with $23.5 billion in road and bridge projects across Illinois over the next six years, representing more than half of the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure bill passed last spring.

According to the state, IDOT evaluated the condition, frequency of use, and crash and fatality numbers across the state’s transportation system in planning the road and bridge expenditure, which includes “maintaining, preserving and expanding” 4,212 miles of roadway and 9.2 million square feet of bridge deck. Note that road expansion is almost always counterproductive to reducing car-dependency.

Here’s a full list of road and bridge projects planned across the state.

“All together, these road and bridge projects will create and support hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next five years for hardworking Illinoisans in every part of our state,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Illinois has some of the most important roads in America – let’s make them outlast and outperform those across the nation.”

“In my nearly 30 years at this agency, today might be the most important day in our history,” said acting IDOT secretary Omer Osman in a statement. “This Multi-Year Plan gets us on the path to fixing our roads and bridges, putting policies into action that ensure our transportation system in Illinois is reliable, safe and provides economic opportunity for generations to come. It is the blueprint for how we Rebuild Illinois.”

IDOT says that the road and bridges funding will allow the department to do preventative maintenance, a more cost-effective approach than having to wait until infrastructure has so badly deteriorated that it presents a safety hazard before taking action to fix it. The plan dedicates over 75 percent of the funds to rebuilding and maintaining roads and bridges.

However, 16 percent of the funding will be used for road and bridge expansion “in areas where data have shown the investment will be highly effective and the remainder for necessary traffic [emphasis added] and safety improvements.” Translation: In some cases IDOT will be widening roads that are currently congested, which will just encourage more people to drive on them, quickly filling up the extra capacity.

$7.58 billion of the $23.5 billion will go toward road reconstruction and preservation, $4.99 billion is earmarked for bridge replacements and repairs, $1.59 billion is set aside for “safety and system modernizations” like interchange reconstructions, $3.08 billion will go for “strategic expansion of the system,” and $2.11 billion will be spent on system support like engineering and land acquisition.

IDOT says the additional funding has also allowed the department to leverage tens of millions of federal dollars, for providing matching funds for grants.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Pritzker was forced Monday to offer assurances that the contracts and spending associated with the infrastructure bill will be closely scrutinized, due to a recent federal corruption probe of state senator Martin Sandoval, who chaired the Senate Transportation Committee and advocated for the spending package. Some of the materials seized in a raid on his Springfield offices were related to IDOT officials. “We are being extremely focused and careful to make sure every dollar that gets spent in this capital plan is done completely above board and done the right way and with taxpayers in mind,” Pritzker said at a press conference on the road and bridges plan on Monday.

The Tribune reported that some the Chicago region will see more than $6.6 billion road and bridge projects over the next five years, including roughly $561 million in work on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago and Rosemont, and about $210 million for the Jane Byrne Interchange, an overdue, over-budget traffic generator.

On the bright side, the infrastructure bill includes also includes longterm, sustainable funding for public transportation, with transit receiving $4.7 billion over the first six years and $281 million for each year afterwards, represents 23 percent of the total transportation spending. In addition, the plan includes including a $50 million annual fund for biking and walking safety infrastructure, which the Active Transportation Alliance lobbied tirelessly for.

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