Representatives celebrate federal funds for suburban bridge projects
Although the list of suburban bridges that will benefit from the recently approved $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure improvement package hasn't been finalized, local, state and federal officials gathered in Des Plaines on Friday to celebrate the upcoming work.
They lauded the jobs the projects will bring and the safety and traffic improvements they will deliver.
"Updated bridges means safer (commutes) to work and school," U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, a Deerfield Democrat, said during the news conference near the Rand Road bridge over the Des Plaines River. "It means accessible sidewalks for pedestrians or cyclists to cross our rivers, and it means improving traffic so first responders, truckers and others trying to get to their destinations can get there more safely and more quickly."
Schneider was joined at a portable lectern on a frozen lot west of the river by U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg, Jan Schakowsky of Evanston and Mike Quigley of Chicago, as well as state Sen. Laura Murphy of Des Plaines, Des Plaines Mayor Andrew Goczkowski and others. The spot is within Schneider's 10th District but across the street from Schakowsky's 9th.
Schneider called the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed into law in November, the largest investment in fixing bridges in the nation's history, with $27.5 billion going to that cause.
He noted 2,374 bridges in Illinois are considered to be in poor condition. Another speaker, the Illinois Department of Transportation's Steve Travia, emphasized that being in need of repair doesn't make the bridges unsafe.
But work certainly is needed, said Travia, IDOT's director of highways project implementation. Funding from the infrastructure law will allow IDOT to repair or replace more bridges, he said.
With nearly 27,000 bridges in the state, "we certainly have plenty of needs," Travia said.
The 93-year-old Rand Road bridge is among them, Travia said. Rebuilding it could begin in the second half of 2022 or in 2023, he said.
"It is virtually ready to go," Travia said.
The project is expected to cost $14 million.
Bridges in Libertyville, Northbrook, Arlington Heights and many other towns could be added to IDOT's to-do list, officials said.
"Today we're taking a step in the right direction, to prevent catastrophe," Krishnamoorthi said.
In addition to bridge projects, the infrastructure legislation includes cash for roads, water systems, broadband internet, ports, electric vehicles and the power grid.
Illinois' share includes an estimated $9.8 billion to fix highways and roads, with $1.4 billion slated for bridges. Public transit systems in Illinois are in line for a $4 billion boost.
Revenues will come from the federal gas tax, unspent COVID-19 relief dollars, unemployment benefits and other sources, experts have said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke and wire services contributed to this report.