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$1.6 billion in transportation projects ahead for Illinois

CHICAGO – Illinois can move forward on $1.6 billion worth of statewide transportation projects that are expected to create more than 18,000 jobs, under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Pat Quinn.

The projects include improvements to road, rail and transit, like expanding highways and modernizing rail infrastructure. Quinn signed the bill in the Chicago suburb of Bellwood – home to one of the planned construction projects – and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood attended the event.

"We're the heart of the Heartland and that really helps us location wise but that doesn't really do enough unless we build our transportation to meet our location," Quinn said.

The improvements include more than $817 million in new highway projects and nearly $800 million in mass transit and rail improvements in the 2013 fiscal year. State officials estimate the projects will create roughly 18,400 jobs.

Tuesday's announcement was the next phase of a capital projects program that began in 2009. The legislation, passed by state lawmakers earlier in the year, authorized the state to borrow the money. Illinois will pay for the projects by selling bonds.

An overpass separating trains and vehicles will be built in suburban Bellwood where the event was held. Quinn said the area is known for congestion. Other projects include adding new lanes to parts of Illinois Route 13 in the southern half of the state, Route 59 in northeastern Illinois and Route 71 in north-central Illinois.

"These investments will lead to faster service, more efficient operations and more capacity for future expansion," LaHood said in a statement.

Additionally, Quinn announced that Chicago will benefit from nearly $94 million in discretionary state funding for transportation projects. A major chunk of the money will be used to resurface arterial streets in the city. Other city projects include a $22.5 million overhaul of a Chicago River bridge and $3 million in engineering costs for a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over a portion of the city's iconic Lake Shore Drive.

Quinn also signed other minor transportation bills including one that authorizes the borrowing of money for bus garage and expansion projects in suburban Chicago.

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The bills are HB4568, HB3875 and HB4036.

Read the full text at the llinois General Assembly website: http://www.ilga.gov/

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen

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