Earmarks helped secure Rebuild Illinois approval. What's in it for the suburbs? (Dog parks?)
One lawmaker's dog park is another lawmaker's pork when it comes to the massive capital bill unleashed by the General Assembly.
Hundreds of earmarks clog the 362 pages of projects ranging from utilitarian-sounding "sludge conveyors" to items such as refurbishing antique doors.
The six-year, $45 billion program dubbed Rebuild Illinois includes $33.2 billion on spending for roads and transit, and $11.6 billion for schools, parks, government buildings and facilities such as museums.
"Illinois is back," Gov. J.B Pritzker declared after the bill passed June 2. Thursday he told the Daily Herald editorial board the initiative will create jobs and fix a broken transportation system.
But some Republican critics think dangling projects in front of lawmakers to lock in votes and enable them to take credit at ribbon-cutting ceremonies is the wrong way to prioritize.
"The bill showed up at the last minute," said Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills, who voted no.
"Very few people had the opportunity to read it through. There was no independent analysis done" to see if the projects and the allocations made sense, he said.
Democrat Pritzker said "there are needs identified all over the state by people who represent those areas. We have things that have not been invested in for decades. The last capital bill was truncated halfway" by former Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The state will raise gas, cigarette and parking garage taxes plus car registrations to pay for transportation, and expand gambling to fund the buildings component.
Here's a sampling of municipal infrastructure projects:
• $3.3 million to Algonquin for a waste water treatment facility.
• $400,000 to Arlington Heights for drainage improvements at Evergreen and Maude avenues.
• $400,000 to Aurora to rebuild the Farnsworth Avenue bridge.
• $350,000 to Glendale Heights for a sludge conveyor system.
• $1.18 million to Libertyville to fix flooding at Interlaken Road.
• $75,000 to Lisle to improve the Metra commuter station.
• $137,500 to Schaumburg to improve pedestrian signals at National Parkway and Higgins Road.
As for more esoteric spending, consider the following: at least $300,000 for dog parks, with $75,000 slated for the Fox Valley Park District, $360,000 to replace exhibits at National Great Rivers Museum in Alton, and $270,000 to refurbish wood doors at the Evanston Historical Center.
Asked about the earmarks, Pritzker said some are for "economic development." Enhancing local attractions can "bring people to an area so they end up shopping and spending money, and that's important for the economy of a city," he noted.
Paws up or down to dog parks and other earmarks? We want to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You should know
What about transit? The Regional Transportation Authority secures a windfall $2.7 billion from the legislation plus a guarantee of consistent capital funding.
"This is the type of long-term, stable capital funding that public transportation needs and riders deserve to address our long-term capital need of $30 billion over the next decade," spokeswoman Susan Massel said.
Sorry, West Chicago. Gary's Mill Road will be closed June 17 as IDOT workers upgrade the bridge over the West Branch of the DuPage River.
Construction wraps up mid-July.
Speaking of capital projects, Cheryl White of Grayslake was "extremely disappointed to see that the Route 53 extension through northern Lake County was not mentioned as one of the proposed projects, or at least a Route 120 bypass."
"This is the main east-west road from I-94 into McHenry County and is traveled by thousands of vehicles per day, including many semis with no other route, yet it is completely ignored," she wrote.
Let it out about I-88
The Illinois tollway holds an open house about impacts from the interchange construction project at the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) and Tri-State Tollway (I-294) from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 11, in Berkeley.
Affected areas include the Illinois Prairie Path near the project, Wild Meadows Park in Elmhurst and Victoria Park in Berkeley.
The event is at Berkeley's village hall, 5819 Electric Ave.