Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled Monday a multi-year plan to spend $23.5 billion on road and bridge projects that were included in Illinois’ $45 billion capital plan, which will be funded through tax and fee hikes.
The Rebuild Illinois plan enacted this summer doubled the state’s gas tax from 19 cents to 38 cents a gallon. Taxpayers have already paid more than $414 million in just two months, $200 million more than the year before. The plan also increased other driving fees. Such funds are going to roads and bridges in the plan.
Critics of the plan have said it was unclear how the money would be spent, although though the legislation included line items that directed money to specific districts, highways and bridges.
Pritzker detailed $23.5 billion in road and bridge spending specifics on Monday in Springfield. The multi-year plan's detailed projects can be found at IDOT.Illinois.gov.
The plan covers 4,212 miles of roadway and 9.2 million square feet of bridges.
Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said state funding would be supplemented with about $9 billion from the federal government.
“And of course that’s going to give us the flexibility of matching any federal funding,” Osman said. “And even if we have another transportation bill coming out of [Washington] D.C., even if that goes up, we still have the ability to match that increased funding.”
Pritzker said the state is also using a federal Transportation Asset Management Plan standard.
“Many other states have been working toward that standard, we are for the first time working toward that standard,” Pritzker said. “What does that mean? It means we’re saving a lot of money for taxpayers as we’re focusing on our roads and bridges.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation said TAMP is “a strategic and systematic process of operating, maintaining, and improving physical assets, with a focus on engineering and economic analysis based upon quality information, to identify a structured sequence of maintenance, preservation, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement actions that will achieve and sustain a desired state of good repair over the lifecycle of the assets at minimum practicable cost.”
Illinois’ TAMP was accepted by the federal government in August.
“We look forward to working with IDOT as you implement the TAMP to achieve and sustain a state of good repair over the life cycle of both pavement and bridge assets and to improve or preserve the overall condition of the National Highway System,” U.S. Department of Transportation Division Administrator Arlene Kocher said.
No money has gone out from Illinois’ plan yet, but Pritzker’s administration said it will use pay-go funds for roads and bridges and borrowing through taxpayer-backed bonds for larger highway projects such as interchanges.
Laborers Local 477 representative George Alexander said the statewide infrastructure plan would put unions back to work.
“You’re able to take vacations, go out to eat, it’s a great economy booster and it’s a great morale booster on the job site because everyone is happy because they can pay their bills and live life the way you’re supposed to live it,” Alexander said.
Some have raised concerns about the capital plan amid a federal corruption probe into a possible kickback scheme focused on state Sen. Martin Sandoval. Pritzker said his administration will make sure the money is spent properly.
“In fact, a full-throated rejection by my administration, by this IDOT, of any of the deception, of the corruption that has been uncovered, and that may yet to be uncovered,” the governor said.
No one has been charged in the reported federal investigation. A politically connected materials supplier along with other companies, including ComEd and Exelon, have been named in federal search warrants.
Comptroller Susana Mendoza said her office would be scrutinizing payments. She said it would break out payments, highlight them on the comptroller's website and be "looking over payments as they go out and making sure they are in compliance with state laws" and prevailing wage standards.
The rest of the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois plan will focus on universities and other vertical public works projects. Pritzker said those announcements would be forthcoming. That plan is being funded with increased taxes, fees and expanded gambling, including sports wagering, which has yet to be implemented.