DECATUR — A $23 billion plan to improve Illinois roads and bridges by 2025 could delight some long-suffering Macon County drivers, with projects that include a dilapidated stretch of U.S. Business 51 through Decatur.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Transportation on Monday released details of the plan that would fix and expand 4,200 miles of roadways and 9 million square feet of bridge decks. The work is part of a $45 billion statewide construction program approved last spring.
"This is long overdue,” Macon County Engineer Bruce Bird said Monday after the plan was released. “It’s nice that the local IDOT district is going to direct money toward the roads everyone complains about and get them up to acceptable standards.”
State documents say the U.S. Business 51 project would improve North Main Street, Franklin Street and North Water Street from Interstate 72 to U.S. 36. The $11.2 million project includes resurfacing seven miles of roadway and making accessibility improvements. Land acquisition and engineering surveys would cost $750,000 and are scheduled for fiscal year 2020.
Other projects outlined for the IDOT region that includes Decatur include Interstate 72, from the Sangamon County line to half a mile west of U.S. 51 at Forsyth, and Illinois 121, from .7 mile southeast of Dalton City to North 20th Street in Mattoon.
Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe said city leaders are excited about all of the work.
"We are very happy that Decatur and Macon County are getting attention and major improvements can be made," she said.
Pritzker's "Rebuild Illinois" had been a major campaign pledge for the first-term governor. However, it has been under scrutiny since the disclosure last month of a federal investigation focused in part on Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat who was the former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Next year's construction budget alone — $3.76 billion — is a 68% increase over this year.
"Illinois has some of the most important roads in America ...," Pritzker said. "We have the opportunity to lead the nation in the transportation, distribution and logistics sector for years to come. Let's seize it."
Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, one of the sponsors of the capital legislation, called the package a “cooperative effort” between Democrats and Republicans, and business and labor.
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“There aren’t too many things that happen like that in state government,” Manar said. “But this is a big one. This is a big one.”
The plan will put thousands of people to work, and will help “every part of our state’s economy,” Manar said.
The road plan aligns Illinois with a Federal Highway Administration standard for long-term maintenance, or "preservation," of roadways, a money-saver compared with fixing roads only when they have so deteriorated they become unsafe.
Authorities raided Sandoval's home and offices last month and removed, among other items, documents related to unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation employees and highway and construction companies in a search for potential personal favors exchanged for official government action.
Pritzker announced a "full-throated rejection" of the alleged corruption, promising to ensure that "every dollar that gets spent in this capital plan is done completely above board and is done the right way and with taxpayers in mind."
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition , a group representing business, labor and transportation advocates, called the plan a "critical step" following years of "missed opportunities to move our state forward."
"We have tens of billions of dollars in roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure that needs (to be) repaired, replaced and expanded," the group said.
The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story.
For a list of projects in IDOT's district 7, click here: