What the pork?! State transpo plan includes $206M for roads to nonexistent airport
There’s plenty of good stuff in the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital bill that was passed this spring in Springfield, including unprecedented money for transit, and a new $50 million annual fund for walking and biking infrastructure. But there are also plenty of warts in the $23.5 billion five-year transportation plan Governor JB Pritzker released yesterday, and his proposal to spend almost $206 million on roads to a third airport near Peotone is a doozy.
As we’ve discussed before on Streetsblog, Chicago is already well-served by two transit-friendly airports, and building a third airport in a car-dependent location in the south suburbs would generate sprawl and make our region even more auto-centric. But it’s a popular idea with some southland residents and politicians who believe the airport would be an economic boon for the area.
In April over 50 local leaders sent a letter to Pritzker supporting the South Suburban Airport proposal. They asked the state of Illinois to chip in $150 million for improvements associated with the airport, such as a new interchange on I-57 at Eagle Lake, local road construction and improvements to utilities,
As reported by Greg Hinz in Crain’s yesterday, Pritzker is ready to shell out even more than they asked for, earmarking $205.5 million for Peotone-related projects in the transportation plan. This includes $150 million for the interchange on I-57, between 2021 and 2025; $19.5 million for construction engineering, and $10 million for acquiring land. Hinz sensibly noted that that money could go a long way toward more pressing transportation priorities, such as beginning work on the south Red Line extension.
The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Howard Learner told Hinz, “Illinois has a huge backlog of vital transit, rail, highway and bridge projects that improve community mobility. . . .Unfortunately, IDOT is allocating even more public funds than the Legislature appropriated in order to support the Peotone airport project that is opposed by the leading commercial airlines and doesn’t have a viable financial plan. Illinois has higher priorities.”