Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Chicago Area Road Funding Cut 16.3%

Money for repair and reconstruction of state maintained roads in the Chicago area will be cut 16.3% for the next six years, according to the IDOT austerity surface transportation plan released Monday, April 30. Last year’s six year IDOT plan for 2012-2017 called for spending $4.5 billion on Chicago area roads and highways, but the new IDOT plan for 2012-2018 cuts that figure to $3.6 billion, mostly as a result of federal matching fund cuts and future Highway Trust Fund legislation uncertainty in Congress. Statewide highway funding in the new plan has been cut from $11.5 billion to $9.2 billion for the same reasons. The only bright spot in the plan is the $12 billion in Tollway spending projected over the next 15 years, funded by the recently implemented 87.5% increase in toll charges.

The Tollway spending binge will mostly go to pay for construction of an interchange between I-294 and I-57 in Cook County, and construction of the Elgin-O’Hare Expressway extension and western bypass. Stalled in the engineering and environmental review process, for lack of construction funding, is the project to rebuild the I-290/I-90/I-94 interchange near the University of Illinois Circle Campus, affectionately known as the “spaghetti bowl.”

According to IDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell, The austerity budget is expected to result in reduction of the percentage of Illinois roads rated as “acceptable” from 88% to 60%, while IDOT hopes to keep the bridge rating, currently 92%, above the 90% mark despite overall budget cuts. “There will be an emphasis on keeping the bridge rating … over 90%, … [but] we will see a decline in the overall rating on roads,” Tridgell said.
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