State Budget: Deal or no deal, road work begins

By Ben Yount 
Illinois News Network

Not even the lack of a state budget in Illinois can stop road construction season.

The thousands of orange cones that now dot highways and interstates across Illinois are proof that even without a budget, drivers will still face construction delays through the summer.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is planning to wrap-up the last of $2 billion in construction projects slated through the end of June.

I-DOT spokeswoman Kelsea Gurski said Illinois’ road budget is different from the non-existent operating budget.

“We’ve had full-year capital budgets for [fiscal year] 16 and 17. The road program has never been impacted by the lack of an operating budget,” Gurski said. “We expect the same to be the case for FY18.”

The money that Illinois is using to build roads this summer is a mix of federal, local, and long-ago budgeted state dollars.

State Rep. Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, said all three levels of government are paying for major projects in her district in the Quad Cities.

“With both the I-74 bridge and the Savanna-Sabula Bridge, it’s a mix of Illinois, Iowa, and federal government dollars,” McCombie said.

The new I-74 bridge is one of I-DOT’s “mega projects” this summer, but there are dozens of others.

McCombie is quick to say it’s important that the state not drop the ball on road construction. She said local communities have done years of work to fix their local highways, and it’d be a shame to let the lack of a state budget hold those communities back.

“The cities and the counties have their own municipal and county budgets,” McCombie said. “And they’re passing their budgets.”

Illinois’ new Lock Box Amendment has placed most of Illinois’ road money and gas taxes off limits to lawmakers.

But McCombie said Illinois still needs a state budget, if for no other reason than to stop the deficit spending that’s increasing the state’s $13 billion in unpaid bills.

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