Illinois state highway officials this week unveiled a five-year program that envisions engineering and land acquisition for a long-awaited extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway to O'Hare International Airport, additional lanes for I-55 in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and other projects across the state, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Program details were announced in Springfield by Acting Secretary Milt Sees of the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The program was described as a "maintenance" budget focused on maintaining the existing highway system.
"This is pretty much a stay-the-course program," Sees said. "Three-fourths of the funding will go to maintaining roads and bridges, and about one-fourth will be directed at expansion and congestion relief."
About 45% of the budgeted $10.9 billion to be spent through 2013 would go toward work in the Chicago region, Sees said, and about 55% elsewhere in the state. The amount is $400 million more than called for last year.
To generate an additional $3 billion for bonds to pay for new construction, Sees called on the General Assembly to approve Gov. Rod Blagjevich's proposal for a gross receipts tax on business revenues, according to the Tribune. Most of the state's business interests oppose the proposed tax.
Sees warned that without passage of a new capital improvement program for state highways, roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate. He said the rising cost of steel, asphalt, concrete and other construction materials "doesn't paint a very healthy picture" and limits the state's ability to add new projects to the road program.
IDOT's program calls for improving nearly 4,200 miles of roads and replacing or rehabilitating 957 bridges. It also includes continued funding for reconstruction of 8½ miles of the Dan Ryan Expressway on Chicago's South Side.
A total of $169.7 million is designated for preliminary design work and land acquisition for an 11-mile extension of the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway from its present eastern end at I-290 in Itasca to the planned Ring Road on the west side of O'Hare. The proposed western access to the airport is a key part of the city's O'Hare expansion plan, according to the newspaper.
Money also is earmarked for adding lanes, widening and resurfacing 14½ miles of I-55 near Joliet in southwest suburban Will County, and for resurfacing 9.6 miles of the Bishop Ford Freeway (I-94) on Chicago's South Side and in south suburban Cook County, the Chicago Tribune reported.