Illinois highway improvement plan includes millions for MacArthur Blvd., Interstate 55

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Gov. JB Pritzker announces the $20.7 billion Highway Improvement Program to improve Illinois’ roads and bridges over the next six years during a press conference at the Illinois Department of Transportation in Springfield on Wednesday.

Multimillion-dollar improvements on Interstate 55 in the Springfield area, as well as $28 million to redevelop MacArthur Boulevard between Stanford and South Grand avenues in the city, are part of Illinois’ updated $20.7 billion highway construction plan.

Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder, who spoke at a news conference Wednesday when Gov. JB Pritzker unveiled the state’s latest six-year highway plan, said the MacArthur improvements represent the city’s highest-priority highway project.

“It’s our center corridor right now,” Langfelder said after the event outside Illinois Department of Transportation headquarters in Springfield. 

More:Ground broken on next stage of Springfield rail improvement project

The MacArthur Boulevard improvements include reconstruction of the road, traffic-signal replacements, changes related to the Americans with Disability Act, land acquisition and engineering.

The work is scheduled for sometime between July 2022 and July 2027, according to IDOT.

Pritzker said the six-year highway plan, which is updated annually, will be funded in part by the six-year Rebuild Illinois capital program. That $45 billion, six-year program was enacted through a package of bills passed by the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis in 2019 and signed into law by the Democratic governor. 

More:Pritzker budget seeks to net state $932M by eliminating ‘corporate loopholes’

The program funds more than roads and is paid for with a doubling of the state’s motor-fuel tax, a tax increase on cigarettes, expanded gambling that includes new casinos in Chicago and its suburbs, and the introduction of legalized sports betting.

Rebuild Illinois received Republican votes in part because of a compromise in which Pritzker supported the Blue Collar Jobs Act, which contained tax credits for businesses based on new construction as an incentive to create jobs.

Pritzker has proposed repealing the Blue Collar Jobs Act tax credits and other tax incentives in his budget proposal for fiscal 2022, which begins July 1, 2021.

More:JB Pritzker launches ‘Time for Me to Drive’ campaign to revive Illinois’ tourism industry

The governor, halfway through his first four-year term, said declines in tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic forced his hand. He said he proposed an end to nine different tax breaks to generate more than $900 million for the state and help balance the state budget.

“Fiscal responsibility is back in Illinois,” he said.

Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over whether all of Pritzker’s budget suggestions should be followed continue as the legislature tries to pass a state budget and deal with other pressing issues by May 31.

Pritzker said the new highway plan will help jump-start the state’s economy during a pandemic-related recession. The work will create construction jobs, promote tourism, make travel safer and quicker, result in less damage to cars and help attract and retain employers, he said.

Pritzker’s statements were echoed by other speakers at the news conference. They included Langfelder, IDOT Secretary Omer Osman, state Sen. Doris Turner, D-Springfield, Senate Transportation Committee chairman Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, and Transportation Committee minority spokesman Donald DeWitte, R-St. Charles.

“Illinois is the transportation hub of America,” DeWitte said.

Pritzker added, “Right now, union tradespeople across the state are hard at work extending our state’s leadership as a multimodal-network hub for national and regional travel and freight movement, all while creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs in every part of Illinois.”

Turner said the road plan will create “good, union jobs that pay a living wage.” 

Rebuild Illinois already has improved more than 2,700 miles of state and local roadways and improved 290 bridges, including the Murray Baker Bridge in Peoria, Pritzker said.

In the Springfield area, he said, I-55 south to Divernon is fully open after $15 million in repairs, and another $20 million in improvements to U.S. 51 from Decatur to Shelby County will wrap us later this year.

Rebuild Illinois also is expected to funnel $122 million to Springfield’s rail improvement project.

More:Springfield gas prices rising ahead of summer travel, potential gas shortages

The updated statewide road plan calls for $3.22 billion in spending in fiscal 2022. The six-year outline will reconstruct 2,700 more miles of roads and almost 8 million square feet of bridges, Pritzker said.

Springfield-area projects included in the fiscal 2022-2027 plan include:

• I-55 reconstruction of 2.3 miles and resurfacing of 5.2 miles in Montgomery County. Cost: $37.2 million.

• I-55 resurfacing from south of the Sangamon/Montgomery county line to just north of Horse Farm Road at the Glenarm exchange and over Illinois 104 in Sangamon County. Scheduled for fiscal 2022, the project cost is $16.6 million.

• Additional lanes and reconstruction of I-55 from a half-mile north of Illinois 54 in Springfield to 2.7 miles south of Illinois 123 in Williamsville. Cost: $134.1 million. 

• I-55 Business/Stevenson Drive from Interstate 72 to just north of Stanford Avenue in Springfield. Reconstruction and additional lanes. Cost: $41.4 million.

• U.S. 67/Illinois 100 over the Illinois River Bridge at Beardstown. Bridge replacement, reconstruction of 1.4 miles and construction engineering. Cost: $67 million.

• Illinois 97/125 from a half-mile west of the Illinois 97/125 junction to just west of Illinois 4 in Springfield. Additional lanes and reconstruction, bridge replacement and work that includes a pedestrian overpass. Cost: $86.5 million.

Contact Dean Olsen: dolsen@gannett.com; (217) 836-1068; twitter.com/DeanOlsenSJR.

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May 19, 2021 at 06:03PM

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