How will Rauner's contract ban affect construction season?
Gov. Bruce Rauner's smackdown on awarding contracts and grants has some state and local transportation officials scratching their heads on how the move will impact the construction season.
Citing "years of bad decisions," Rauner issued an executive order this week halting "awarding, entering into, amending or renewing of state contracts" until July, with exceptions for ones required for legal reasons, emergencies, essential operations and small purchases. The governor asked all state agencies to cut spending and promised to review all major highway construction projects that hadn't started.
Roadwork is still some months off, but winter is when many municipalities and agencies start approving contracts.
Asked what the order meant for the Illinois Department of Transportation's usually busy construction season in the suburbs, spokesman Guy Tridgell said, "We are in contact with the governor's office on this issue and still are exploring ways to make sure IDOT is in full compliance with the executive order."
The Illinois tollway also has a full plate of construction work planned for 2015 with work on the Jane Addams Tollway and the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway anticipated.
"Tollway construction contracts may fall under the criteria in the executive order, but it is important to point out that this is part of a broader review to maximize investment in infrastructure in Illinois," spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said.
For infrastructure, many counties rely on federal dollars that are administered through the state. While Cook County officials said Rauner's order should not affect any of their roadwork this summer, Lake and Kane County transportation directors said they were still looking for clarification.
One project that could benefit from the new governor is a plan to extend Route 53 north. Rauner has nominated Randy Blankenhorn as his new IDOT secretary. Former IDOT executive Blankenhorn heads up the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, which supports the project.
Blankenhorn also worked closely with the blue-ribbon committee that came up with a consensus plan for the extension.
"I'm hopeful he'll (Rauner) listen to someone he chose for this incredibly important position," said George Ranney, co-chairman of an advisory group on Route 53. "I think it's a splendid choice."