For the second time in as many months, Governor Pat Quinn was back in the Northwest suburbs Friday talking tollway improvements.
But while February's announcement in Hoffman Estates was specifically about state funding for a full interchange at Barrington Road and the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway, Friday's appearance in Schaumburg covered the full $1.4 billion that will be invested in the Illinois Tollway this year.
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It's the single biggest infrastructure project in the agency's history, Quinn said. Funding is being provided through a major toll increase that was instituted in 2012. The most commonly paid toll jumped 88 percent to 75 cents from 40 cents.
The news conference at Schaumburg's Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center was set against the backdrop of one particular beneficiary -- the Meacham Road bridge over I-90 that will see its first partial interchange built as part of the coming improvements.
The next exit to the west at Roselle Road also will have a full interchange completed by 2017.
Not only will the entire statewide project create 15,000 construction jobs, but the economic benefits of an up-to-date roadway system in the nation's transportation hub will be felt long after, Quinn said.
Richard McMahon, CEO of Sunstar Americas Inc., said the coming improvements were a key factor in his company's decision to remain in Illinois after outgrowing its 25-year-old North American headquarters in Chicago.
A new headquarters in Schaumburg near Roselle Road and I-90 is expected to welcome 400 employees next year, McMahon said.
"We are very, very happy to be here," McMahon told Quinn and the group of union construction workers gathered behind him. "What you do matters."
James Sweeney, president and business manager of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, spoke passionately about what the new work will mean both to his members as well as everyone else in the state.
Five years ago, one of the union's key tasks was organizing a food bank for out-of-work members and their families, Sweeney said.
"It was a great depression for the construction industry," he added.
But conversations began with the governor about the kind of work that could be done locally, doing more to rebuild and improve the tollway system than simply continuing to pave over the work of the "Greatest Generation" from more than 50 years ago.
"This is what roads are supposed to look like," Sweeney said of the tollway plan. "Politicians tell you what they want to do. Leaders tell you what they have to do, and Pat Quinn is a leader."