Thursday, April 07, 2011

IDOT unveils fix-it road plan

By Jamey Dunn

The Illinois Department of Transportation’s six-year construction plan focuses on maintenance and repair of the state’s existing bridges and roads.

According to IDOT Secretary Gary Hannig, two-thirds of the $11.5 billion “fix-it” plan will be spent on maintaining the state’s existing roads and bridges. The other third will be spent on relieving traffic congestion and new projects. “We will deal with congestion. We will deal with safety concerns. We will also work to preserve and maintain the existing highway footprint,” Hannig said at a Chicago news conference.

The state plans to improve 3,248 miles between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2017 and revamp or replace 611 bridges. Almost 500 miles of road and more than 100 bridges will see construction in the next fiscal year. According to Hannig, Illinois has already worked on about 4,800 miles of road and about 500 bridges in the last two years.

Federal dollars will fund $7.2 billion of the plan, with Illinois putting up the rest of the money. Illinois' part willl include $2 billion from the state's embattled capital construction program, which was ruled unconstitutional by an appellate court. The state is moving ahead with construction while the Illinois Supreme Court considers the future of the program. Hannig said he was not concerned about the funding. “We’re moving forward with the program full speed ahead. It’s our belief that the court will rule in our favor.”

Hannig said IDOT took a conservative approach when estimating future federal funding levels by assuming that they would stay flat.

The plan will stick to the traditional spending levels of 45 percent going toward the Chicago area and 55 percent being spent downstate. A total of $8.3 billion will be spent on state highways, and $3.2 billion will be spent on local roads. “These major projects that have been on the drawing board, sometimes for years and years, we finally have a chance to get them done statewide—city, suburbs downstate, every part of Illinois,” Quinn said.

The road work is expected to create an estimated 155,000 construction jobs.

Quinn also said Illinois has received the “go ahead” to build an airport in the south suburb of Peotone, a project called for in the capital plan. He said the state has started buying land for the site.

IDOT has posted the six-year plan to its website, along with an interactive map.


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