IDOT highway plan has a grim prognosis

  • Work on the Circle Interchange is one big-ticket IDOT project that is going forward, despite budget constraints.

      Work on the Circle Interchange is one big-ticket IDOT project that is going forward, despite budget constraints. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer, March 2015

 
 
Updated 5/15/2015 6:52 AM

Announcements about the state's multiyear highway improvement plan usually are full of hype and hope.

But this version with an $8.4 billion road program could be the most subdued IDOT news release ever as Illinois' budget crisis continues to spiral.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Just maintaining our existing system will be a challenge, with the ability to take on any new projects extremely difficult," Acting Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said in a statement Thursday.

Funding is regressing compared to 2014 when $8.6 billion was earmarked for the highway plan and then-Gov. Pat Quinn said "our infrastructure plan will create thousands of construction jobs now while paving the way for more jobs and economic development in the future."

The austerity of 2015 contrasts further with the $12.6 billion announced in 2013 when Quinn said "Illinois is the transportation hub of the nation, and this program will ensure we have the modern infrastructure needed to compete with the world."

Blankenhorn said the 2016 to 2021 multiyear program will "have a positive impact" on many communities but there's an "urgency to find a long-term, sustainable solution for our infrastructure needs."

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If the status quo continues, the state won't be able to keep up with repairs and just 62 percent of highways and 86 percent of bridges will be in "acceptable condition" by the end of 2021, officials said.

Among IDOT's priorities are reconstruction of the Jane Byrne Circle Interchange where the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways meet, replacing I-80 bridges in Will County and rebuilding the Stevenson Expressway's connection to Lake Shore Drive.

The state's previous capital plan is expiring and federal revenues are compromised as the Highway Trust Fund runs out. Meanwhile, lawmakers approved borrowing money from the road fund to balance a shortfall this spring.

The state will spend $1.85 billion on highways and bridges in fiscal year 2016. Here's a look at some significant local projects tentatively scheduled in the next six years.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Rebuilding the Cumberland Avenue interchange with the Kennedy Expressway.

• Bridge replacement at Salt Creek and I-290 in Addison.

• Improvements at the Des Plaines River and I-290 in Forest Park.

• Bridge replacement at Route 20 and Route 31 in Elgin.

• Additional lanes for Route 22 (Half Day Road) in Long Grove and Kildeer.

• Intersection improvements at Route 53 and Butterfield Road near Glen Ellyn.

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