Lawmakers travel state to hear infrastructure needs

Capital hearings pic1State lawmakers traveled across the state this spring to hear from local officials, transportation experts and other interested parties about what projects need to be addressed in a comprehensive capital bill to improve Illinois’ infrastructure and potential revenue sources to fund them.

The Senate Joint Subcommittees on Capital, co-chaired by State Senator Andy Manar and State Senator Martin A. Sandoval, held a total of eight hearings spanning the course of three months. Along with two hearings at the Capitol in Springfield, senators traveled to Edwardsville, Decatur, Peoria, Elgin, Chicago and Grayslake to hear about needs in local communities.

“We’re trying to hear from a wide range of interested groups about capital needs they see in our state, and I think we learned a lot during this process,” Sandoval said. “Millions of Illinoisans rely on our public infrastructure system on a daily basis and it’s long past time we make improvements to ensure it remains safe and efficient for the people of Illinois.”

Illinois has not had a capital bill to fund infrastructure improvements in a decade. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Illinois’ transportation system a D grade. A recent report for TRIP, a national transportation research group, estimated that the poor condition of roads in the state is costing motorists $18.3 billion each year in extra costs to operate and maintain their vehicles.

Illinois’ transportation network is not the only part of the state’s public infrastructure that is in need of repairs. Institutions of higher education, hospitals and other facilities that provide important services to Illinoisans are also in need of attention.

“Illinois needs cranes on campuses and bulldozers at building sites. Construction projects signal that Illinois is open for business,” Manar said. “Highway and bridge repairs are vitally important, but any statewide infrastructure plan has to balance those priorities with our need for new schools, modern hospitals and 21st century college facilities. There has to be a healthy mix.”

The Capital Development Board estimates the cost of repairs to state facilities at $7.8 billion, just under $6.7 billion for public universities and $9.4 billion for public schools.

During the hearing process, the joint subcommittees heard over 23 hours of testimony, during which they heard testimony from 140 different individuals on 46 panels.

“These hearings allowed us to learn more about the challenges facing communities around the state and hear creative perspectives about how to pay for construction projects,” Sandoval said.

“We had a hefty agenda and I think that plainly reflects the needs in the state,” Manar said. “We have a lot of important individuals and organizations involved in this process and I want to encourage everyone to help us advocate for a capital bill to bring infrastructure investment to Illinois.”

Legislation has been introduced to fund projects throughout the state. The Senate will soon vote on a comprehensive plan to rebuild Illinois.

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