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Marengo interchange continues, Longmeadow stops under IDOT budget shutdown

McHenry County leaders who have waited a long time for a Marengo interchange at Interstate 90 and Route 23 will not have their dream delayed if state lawmakers can’t come to an agreement on a budget.

But a continued budget impasse will do to the next phase of the Longmeadow Parkway what an endangered bumblebee could not, and shut down work until a state budget is in place.

The Illinois Department of Transportation, as it did this time last year during the ongoing budget impasse, has ordered that all IDOT-funded roadwork start winding down and cease altogether by Friday unless the General Assembly and Gov. Bruce Rauner can end a three-year budget standoff.

Rauner ordered the General Assembly into special session last Wednesday to attempt to reach a budget deal before the 2018 state fiscal year begins Saturday.

The interchange work in Marengo, which right now consists of replacing the Route 23 overpass, is under the auspices of the Illinois Tollway, which gets its funding from tolls rather than state or federal dollars, so work will continue as scheduled. However, that’s not the case for the next phase of the Longmeadow Parkway in neighboring Kane County.

The $13.28 million next phase for the four-lane, 5.6-mile road – building it from west of Randall Road to east of White Chapel Lane in Algonquin – will not continue without a 2018 budget, Kane County Division of Transportation Assistant Director Steve Coffinbargar said.

The next phase in the project to connect Randall Road and Route 62 is an IDOT contract, and federal funds that are helping pay for it flow through the state.

“It does contain federal funds, and thus if the state budget doesn’t get passed come July 1, it will be shut down,” Coffinbargar said.

Engineering and land acquisition for the remainder of the Longmeadow project is county funded and will continue on schedule, he said.

A federal judge in April halted further construction on Longmeadow Parkway under a temporary restraining order after an opposition group filed a lawsuit over concerns that the work would harm the endangered rusty-patched bumblebee, which was found in a forest preserve along the parkway corridor.

The two-week restraining order expired in early May and construction continued.

A shutdown would affect 700 IDOT projects statewide, totaling $2.3 billion. Three McHenry County projects under IDOT jurisdiction will stop without a budget.

A $642,571 project that began in April to repair a small bridge on Route 14 over the Kishwaukee river near Bunker Hill Road west of Woodstock will stop if the impasse continues. Two more were set to begin this week, according to IDOT: a $784,117 resurfacing of Route 31 from Park Place to Route 120 in McHenry, and a $962,056 resurfacing of Route 31 from north of Route 14 to Orchard Lane in Crystal Lake.

However, an economic policy nonprofit is sounding a warning that a protracted shutdown of state road projects will have a lot more of a negative effect than inconveniencing drivers.

A study released June 20 by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute warned that an extended stoppage of state road projects could shrink the state economy by $2 billion, eliminate 23,000 jobs and cost taxpayers an additional $270 million over the next fiscal year.

Funding for road construction is available – voters last year overwhelmingly approved a lockbox amendment to the Illinois Constitution that requires that all transportation funds be spent solely on road projects. But without a budget in place, IDOT maintains that it does not have the authority to spend it.

“The impacts of the shutdown of all IDOT construction projects will be widespread, affecting workers, travelers, and the economy on the whole. Governor Rauner and the General Assembly must act to prevent these negative consequences,” the policy institute report concludes. “The projects have been carefully considered and planned, the funding is available and protected by the 2016 amendment to the Illinois Constitution. If appropriate
action is not taken, Illinois can add this issue to the long list of public services that have been adversely impacted due to partisan politics.”

A threatened IDOT shutdown in June 2016 was staved off on the last day of the fiscal year by the approval by state lawmakers of a six-month stopgap budget. Even with the specter of schools throughout Illinois not being able to open in the fall without some sort of a deal, there has not been much appetite among rank-and-file state lawmakers for another stopgap.

“Last year [lawmakers] at the last minute approved a budget. Fingers crossed, that’s what they do this year to avoid a shutdown,” Coffinbargar said.

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