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Transportation leaders urge Pritzker to not divert road funds to Chicago transit

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(The Center Square) – Transportation industry leaders are urging Gov. J.B. Pritzker and legislative leaders to keep their promise to Rebuild Illinois and stop the diversion of road funds to fill funding gaps in Chicago public transit.

Kevin Artl, president and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, said he doesn’t think it’s a shock to anyone that work travel has changed post pandemic.

“It’s not right, at this point, to begin diverting funds from the Road Fund, designed for roads and bridges … to fund a system that I think everyone has concerns with and is going to be going through some sort of major reform over the next couple of years,” Artl said, referring to Chicago public transit.

Pritzker’s budget proposal calls for a diversion of $175 million in state taxpayer money committed to fund things like bridge repair and road improvement. Those taxpayer funds will be diverted to primarily Chicago-based public transit systems.

“Illinois is in the crossroads of America. For us to have a 21st century economy we have to have 21st century infrastructure,” Artl said. “We are really moving towards that now, and there’s great progress being made by [the Illinois Department of Transportation], Capital Development Board and others to modernize our state’s infrastructure.”

In 2019, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers approved Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois plan. The multi-year plan came at a cost to taxpayers of $45 billion, including a doubling of the state’s motor fuel tax with annual increases linked to inflation. The money is for rebuilding and modernizing the state’s infrastructure and transportation network.

Artl said the Rebuild Illinois program is in line with Pritzker’s calls for developing electric vehicle infrastructure.

“We’re talking electric vehicle lanes, charging stations, to prepare us for that next phase in the economy,” Artl said. “There’s great alignment here and it would be a real disappointment if we had to take a step back.”

According to the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, the $175 million loss in road funding would multiply to more than a $1 billion impact in lost road and bridge improvements over the next few years.

Artl said diversions rarely end. He anticipates that this diversion will occur throughout the remainder of the Rebuild Illinois program.

“A billion dollars in road and bridge repairs are significant that will be left undone,” Artl said.

Industry leaders are proponents of funding public transit systems, but leaders said operating costs cannot come at the expense of the existing Rebuild Illinois program.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois, in conjunction with the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, the Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers and the Associated General Contractors of Illinois all are urging the governor and legislative leaders to not divert funds.

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