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IDOT multi-year transportation program includes major emphasis on interstate bridge safety

   In contrast to recent years where emphasis has been on added capacity projects such as the New Mississippi River Bridge and Illinois 255 here, the Illinois Dept. of Transportation’s FY 2014-2019 Multi-Modal Transportation Improvement Program will focus on maintaining existing bridges and roads statewide.
   The $9.53 billion program, “Transforming Transportation for Tomorrow,” allocates nearly $7 billion for state highways and bridges, with $2.5 billion for local roads and streets. Approximately 76 percent of the projected funding for the six-year TIP comes from federal transportation dollars; 14 percent from the state, 6 percent from the “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital bill; and 4 percent from local municipalities.
    IDOT’s FY 2014-2019 TIP represents a slight increase over the previous year’s multi-year program ($9.168 billion for FY 2013-2018) but a marked reduction over previous years. In FY 2012-2017, the agency worked under a $11.525 billion multi-year program; the year before that, IDOT’s six-year TIP totaled $12.84 billion.
   Jeff Keirn, acting deputy director of highways for IDOT Region 5, District 8, says approximately $627 million of the $9.53 billion total TIP is devoted to  Southwestern Illinois. District 8 includes the counties of Madison, St. Clair, Monroe, Bond, Calhoun, Clinton, Greene, Jersey, Marion, Randolph and Washington.
   “About 70 percent of our program (FY 2014-2019) is going toward maintenance. That’s a good way to describe what’s going on,” said Keirn. “It’s different than what we’ve been working on the past several years, now that work on the New Mississippi River Bridge Project, the funded portion of U.S. 67 and the I-255 extension are being completed or have been completed.”
   Bridge safety is a major priority of IDOT’s six-year plan, according to Keirn. “Our focus as a department is to make sure we take care of our bridges,” he said. “Statewide, 27 percent of this multi-year program is allocated toward bridge maintenance. The emphasis on putting an appropriate level of funding in place to ensure long-term interstate bridge safety is true in all IDOT regions and districts. It’s a concerted effort to keep them as safe and well-maintained as we possibly can,” he added.
   In Illinois, IDOT maintains a total of 7,741 interstate bridges, 2,182 interstate miles and a total of 15,999 road miles.
   District 8 projects proposed in the six-year plan include resurfacing and repair totaling approximately $85.3 million in Madison County, $59.6 million in St. Clair County, $43.7 million in Clinton County, $16.6 million in Jersey County, $11.4 million in Bond County and $19.5 million in Centralia (spanning multiple counties).  
   The plan also includes a new $40 million interchange in St. Clair County at I-64 and Rieder Road and land acquisition, new construction and related costs for 5.1 miles of the future U.S. 67 four-lane expressway from Jerseyville to the Madison County line ($47.1 million).
   Bi-state projects currently included (but not yet funded) in IDOT’s multi-year program are: a new exit ramp off of the MLK Bridge (Summer 2015 construction start) that would tie into Interstate 55 South and the Illinois Rte. 3 South exits; Poplar Street Bridge interchange improvements (Spring 2015 construction start); and improvements to existing I-70 bridges. All of these projects affect highly-trafficked, interconnected commuter roadways and bridges, says Keirn, making the timing of each project critical.
   “The challenge with several of these major bi-state, Illinois-Missouri projects will be making sure that our river bridges and related interstate ramps are out of service for the very least amount of time possible while construction work is taking place,” said Keirn. “Each project has a commitment to fit into the individual timeline with what is occurring on the related project. One example is the deck repair work that needs to be done on the MLK Bridge (Summer 2014 construction start). We want to make sure that work is complete before MoDOT removes the eastbound I-70 and reconstructs the southbound I-55 ramps on the Poplar Street West interchange in Missouri.”
   Bruce Holland, chief executive officer at Holland Construction Services Inc. in Swansea and co-chairman of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois’ SITE (Southwestern Illinois Transportation Enhancement) Committee, is a long-time advocate for the region’s transportation needs. Holland says Illinois was particularly lucky to have gotten federal stimulus money, “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital program funding and the New Mississippi River Bridge Project essentially at the same time.
   “It was record-breaking for our economy,” Holland said. “Normally in a district of our size, you’d see about $125 million a year in programming. We saw $300 million to $400 million a year for multiple years.  We were doing exceptionally well.”
   Holland says there’s a consensus among local legislators and construction industry leaders that the time is right to propose another capital bill in Springfield.
   “I think there’s an appetite in the legislature to do a capital bill,” said Holland. “As long as they have the funding source, regardless of what else is going on, if they’ve identified a funding source, they can sell the bonds and go. When our SITE committee went to visit the secretary of transportation, she was all about multi-modal transportation.”
   Illinois Secretary of Transportation Ann Schneider acknowledges the need for continued funding via another capital program.
   “Since 2009, the $31 billion capital construction program is the largest in Illinois history, supporting an estimated 439,000 construction jobs,” Schneider said. “The program includes $14 billion for transportation through 2015. Of the $14 billion in the program dedicated for transportation needs, IDOT has awarded 5,593 projects worth $13.22 billion, creating and supporting 170,000 jobs. These have included improvements to 7,109 miles of roadways and 1,138 bridges.
   We are so proud of what we have been able to accomplish through ‘Illinois Jobs Now!,’ but the program is winding down. We recognize more funding will be needed to continue to improve and maintain our state’s transportation needs. We will continue to engage the Illinois General Assembly to ensure the members are aware of those needs to obtain additional capital funding and work diligently to maintain a safe, sustainable, integrated multi-modal transportation system.”
   Motor fuel tax dollars are the primary source of state funds that fuels IDOT’s multi-year program, the funding of which is approved on an annual basis once the General Assembly passes the state’s overall budget for each fiscal year.  Additional sources are motor vehicle registration fees, other user fees, and bonds authorized through capital programs such as Illinois Jobs Now! Federal sources for highways and transit are allocated to the department through federal transportation legislation titled Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), signed into law in July 2012 and expiring at the end of September 2014.

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