Springfield plan targets pork-barrel road and transit spending

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The bill would direct the Illinois Department of Transportation to develop “risk-based” and “needs-based” systems to use in deciding which projects to fund—and which not to fund.

Illinois transportation funding often has devolved to a political scrum, with projects such as building a third airport or the proposed Illiana Expressway advancing or failing because of political factors.

“This isn’t about any particular project,” Buckner said. “This is a simple but consequential change: visibility. Billions of dollars shouldn’t be locked in a black box. We want to ensure we’re being accountable to our taxpayers.” 

Said Villivalam: “Whether we want to improve a highway or update a train station, there are equity- and data-driven methods to guide our decision making.” 

Buckner underlined that, historically, big highways have been built near and through minority communities. At the same time, he added, "To say that public transit is a catalyst for job growth is an understatement.”

Another person at the press conference, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council member Rochelle Jackson, told of how she spent two weeks documenting broken sidewalks, missing signs and dangerous intersections in her area. “These aren’t just inconveniences,” she said. “They make it difficult to get to work, to live our lives.”

Tom Kotarac, the Civic Committee’s senior vice president for transportation, said IDOT has begun to use performance-based metrics on some programs, for instance in distributing federal funds for freight rail decongestion projects under the Create program. But lots more needs be done with the state ramping up its own infrastructure spending and President Joe Biden talking about a big new national commitment.

“We want to make sure that every project is the best it can be,” said MPC Director of Transportation Audrey Wenninik. “The beauty of performance metrics is that they allow us to get the most benefits out of our public dollars.”

That’s the idea: Take the politics out of transportation funding. We’ll see if it works.

via Crain’s Chicago Business

February 23, 2021 at 04:37PM

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