SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Pat Quinn unveiled a plan Wednesday to invest nearly $13 billion in Illinois’ transportation system, which his administration says will help the state create or retain some 140,000 jobs over six years.
The program includes a $475 million reconstruction of what’s considered the nation’s most clogged intersection – the Circle Interchange just west of Chicago’s Loop.
The congestion-riddled pretzel of concrete serves as the meeting point for the Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways and Congress Parkway, and it hasn’t kept up with modern traffic flow since it opened 50 years ago, officials say.
Quinn and Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider also highlighted the planned construction of a new Mississippi River bridge at Moline, repairs and upgrades to Interstate 74 in eastern Illinois, repair and replacement of bridges along Interstate 57 in southern Illinois, and improvement of I-55 in the central part of the state.
“Our economy depends on our location and transportation,” Quinn said at a news conference outside his state Capitol office. “We want to make sure we have a 21st century transportation program.”
The Illinois Department of Transportation’s long-range transit-improvement plans run five or more years at a time, with an annual update that marks the progress of ongoing work or identifies new priorities.
This edition details work on 2,142 miles of highway and 517 bridges scheduled for repair or replacement. It also outlines the beginning or continued jobs to improve Chicago Transit Authority commuter lines; passenger rail service from Chicago to the Quad Cities and Chicago to Dubuque, Iowa; and improvements to key air freight depots in Rockford and Peoria.
“We are trying to make sure that we are addressing all of the mobility needs of the state and it’s really important that all of those modes work together as one system,” Schneider said.
The plan ensures that 140,000 construction or related jobs will be retained or created, she said.
Democratic Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, who represents Chicago’s West Side, said the plan calls for $500 million in work for her district, which has a 52 percent unemployment rate for black men. She said she expects the state to do a better job of hiring minorities to do the work.
“If I do not see the progress the community expects, we will demonstrate our dissatisfaction,” Van Pelt said in a written statement. “Construction projects are good, but we need jobs in our community.”
IDOT officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Federal money will pay for 57 percent of the six-year program, officials said, with 15 percent from state funds – most of it pay-as-you-go money collected from vehicle registration fees and motor-fuel taxes on each gallon of gasoline and diesel fuel. The rest comes from local government and other sources.
Schneider said 70 percent of the program’s funding is reserved for the maintenance of existing roadway as officials confront “the needs of a system that’s pretty much outlived its design life,” Schneider said.
“A lot of our system maintenance activities are going to run the spectrum between fairly thin overlays to actual reconstruction of what’s there, although not necessarily adding capacity,” IDOT programming engineer Jeff South said.
Bridges are prioritized, Schneider said, and if any bridge falls below “acceptable or better” condition before IDOT contractors can get to it, it is limited to a lower weight or closed until they do.