ROADS/BRIDGES: Ill.’s Rauner to drop $3 billion into state road and bridge repairs

The state’s secretary of transportation applaudes but says it’s not enough to get ahead

May 27, 2016

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration announced this week it would increase spending on road and bridge repairs by nearly $3 billion during the next six years, but the state’s transportation secretary said the state still won’t get ahead of deteriorating roads.

The Illinois Department of Transportation (ILDOT) released a plan it says spends $11.2 billion through 2022 on roads and bridges, a $2.8 billion increase from what was planned at this time last year.

Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn warned that new sources of funding have to be found to keep pace with crumbling highways.

“Our latest multiyear highway program is more promising than a year ago, but we still have our work cut out for us,” Blankenhorn said in a statement. “Revenue projections for transportation do not meet the needs of the state and the condition of our system will continue to deteriorate.”

For the first time, ILDOT did not include its plans for railroads, mass transit and airports, all of which are typically part of the multiyear package. Those will be released later this year.

A focus on maintenance and repair will not help the state gain any ground. Blankenhorn reported that 79% of highways and 92% of bridges are currently considered to be in “acceptable” condition, meaning they can meet traffic demands for the foreseeable future. The term is not meant to identify an unsafe road or bridge.

“You can still drive across roads and bridges that are unacceptable,” ILDOT spokesman Guy Tridgell said. “Any roads or bridges that are deemed unsafe through our regular inspection processes are either closed or weight restrictions are imposed.”

Even after six years of investment, Blankenhorn said only 61% of highways and 86% of bridges would be considered acceptable, due to degrading during that time.

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