Friday, April 11, 2014

Gov's Road Map Won't Finish 6-Lane Projects

The five-year road map for transportation spending unveiled this week by Gov. Pat Quinn fails to include any funding to finish both the Route 13 widening between John A. Logan College and Carbondale, or the Interstate 57 widening between Interstates 24 and 64.

The spending plan includes both the upcoming FY 2015 and the next five fiscal years ending on June 30, 2020. Quinn outlined details of the plan Wednesday. Only the $71 million I-64 replacement bridge over the Wabash River made the highlight reel.

Under the last five-year plan the state poured millions in to new construction projects, starting the Route 13 widening between Marion and the college as well as the rebuild of the Route 13/I-57 interchange and development of the new Morgan Avenue exchange on the north side of Marion.

Overall, the plan includes few new construction projects for Southern Illinois focusing, as almost always, on resurfacing and basic maintenance. That means few economic game-changers so when the existing construction now underway on Route 13 and the I-57 interchange ends, that's it for now.

As to the widening of I-57 in Williamson, Franklin and Jefferson Counties, the only project on the list that appears connected at all is replacement of the I-57 bridges over Atchinson Creek two miles north of the Ina interchange.

Over the last few years IDOT has been replacing the bridges on I-57 between Interstates 24 and 64 with 6-lane structures in preparation for widening this stretch of the interstate. Besides the bridges they also will have to rebuild some of the overpasses used by smaller roads such as Westminster Drive on the south side of Marion.

The largest project on the list for the region - the Wabash River bridge on the state line - will be led by IDOT, but paid in part by Indiana.

Although the higher profile projects are not included in the governor's plan, hope remains. Lawmakers have been talking about a new capital spending plan for sometime. High profile projects usually get saved for those in order to get lawmakers to support the higher fees and/or taxes to pay for them.

The most interesting brick and mortar projects included actually aren't road projects at all, but mass transit and air transportation.

Rides Mass Transit District which serves much of southeastern Illinois should get three new buildings out of the deal - a $1 million administration building to replace their existing one, $1.5 million for a new maintenance and dispatch facility, both to be located in Harrisburg, as well as $1.8 million for a new District Transfer Center to be located in Marion.

This is in addition to $2.45 million to replace four 35-foot, three super medium duty, and eight medium duty diesel buses as well as one minivan.

After years of delay in part caused by the recession, the Williamson County Airport will be getting a new $10 million terminal building. This Phase I and Phase II work is slated for funding in FY 2015, which is the budget year beginning this July 1.

It's been at least seven or eight years since the airport authority started serious discussions on a new terminal. Before the recession in 2007, the airport had two airlines offering scheduled service, one to St. Louis and the other to Chicago, and a third airline planning flights to Las Vegas and Orlando. The latter deal fell apart before any planes got off the ground, but not until after the airport had made changes to the terminal to handle the larger flights.

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