Tri States Public Radio Staff
Regional Summit in Macomb
Wed August 22, 2012
Transportation Advocates Push for Capital Bill
Illinois lawmakers are sure to hear next year from transportation advocates who say the state needs a new capital bill to pay for transit projects and boost the economy.
The case was made August 22 by the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, which held a regional summit in Macomb. The Coalition is made up of business and labor representatives as well as politicians of both major parties.
Co-Chair Doug Whitley, who is also President of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, said all forms of transit are important but road work will be especially critical in the coming years because the interstate highway system in Illinois needs to be rebuilt. He pointed to I-80 as an example of a highway in need of repairs.
Whitley also believes the Macomb Bypass should be a priority.
“Getting that bypass around Macomb is the most obvious missing element of the Chicago to Kansas City expressway,” Whitley said. He added the Route 67 corridor is another key project for western Illinois.
Whitley said more than $1 billion is needed per year just to maintain the state's transit systems, and he said close to $2 billion is needed for road and bridge systems. He said the recently approved federal transportation bill won't help much because it maintained spending at the same level as the last six years.
“There is no new money coming from the federal government and that means that we are able to buy less, do less, and imagine less because of the limitations of the funds,” Whitley said.
The Coalition said the gathering in Macomb drew more than 160 people, making it the largest of its regional summits. A summit in Elgin drew 126 people, and 85 people attended one in Mount Vernon.