By KEVIN BURKE and PAT HOSTY
Transportation for Illinois Coalition
For more than 200 years, Illinois’ strength has been rooted in making connections.
With its major metropolitan area of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs right in the middle of the Heartland, the Prairie State helps millions every day make the connections that matter. Our economy thrives from our intricate network of rail, roads, airways and ports that connect the coasts and all points in between. With every vehicle traveling that network around the clock, millions of families have better lives and support each other everywhere they go.
Over time, Illinois policymakers lost focus on the importance of ensuring those connectors that make up our transportation infrastructure could hold up under the strain. Pavement broke and crumbled. Road surfaces wore thin. Bridges became less safe. Barges struggled to travel our rivers. Buses broke down. Without help, we faced a real crisis.
In 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker and state legislators stepped up and approved Rebuild Illinois, a long-term funding capital program to answer the call. This year, Illinois is setting new records for investing in connecting infrastructure and our future is bright.
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition is an umbrella organization of business, labor, transit agencies and transportation advocates who know how important investing in our connection strength is to our state’s and its people’s success. We formed nearly 25 years ago to build support for the investments we are seeing now – investments in our economy and our future success.
In July, our team joined the Illinois Department of Transportation to release a new Multi-Year Program for the next 6 years of planned spending on infrastructure improvements and expansions. The results are record-setting and worth celebrating:
- Illinois’ largest-ever Multi-Year Program, with annual spending of about $4.6 billion for highways and bridges.
- More than $27 billion in improvements for highways and bridges, addressing more than 3,000 miles of roadway and nearly 10 million miles of bridges.
- More than $9 billion for transit agencies.
- 94 percent of state interstate road pavement and 96 percent of state interstate bridges will be considered in acceptable condition when these improvements are completed.
IDOT has created a comprehensive set of maps and explaining documents to support the program here: https://idot.illinois.gov/.
Making these connections is about much more than filling cracks and shoring up concrete and asphalt. It’s about helping people build their connections.
These improvements will reduce the costs and time delays to ship goods and services. They will reduce the time you sit in traffic or ride on buses and trains to get to work or to your family event, and the costs you face to fix your vehicle from a run-in with busted pavement.
They will draw young engineers back to Illinois, who had no choice but to leave a few years ago when there were no projects to work on here. They will support many dedicated union workers and their families, including minorities who will have opportunities that simply didn’t exist until now. They will support small and large contracting businesses, who hire local workers and spend their money locally to boost fellow businesses in our communities.
As you see the orange cones and flags pop up more frequently on our roadways across Illinois this year and beyond, we hope you will see them as a sign of progress. Thank you to Gov. Pritzker and legislators for helping strengthen the support system that will ensure we can all connect more safely and with more certainty, today and for many years to come.
Kevin Burke III, PE, of Springfield is the executive vice president of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association and a co-chair of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition. Pat Hosty is the executive director of the Chicago Area Laborers-Employers and Education Trust and a co-chair of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition.