Peoria Journal Star

Peoria-area projects in hands of Congress
Bill would fund river improvements

February 14, 2003

By DORI MEINERT
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Millions of dollars will flow to a wide range of central Illinois projects if Congress today approves, as expected, a $397.4 billion federal funding bill.

From Illinois River restoration to agriculture research, the action will boost projects that have been in limbo since fall due to congressional inaction. The bill wraps up 11 appropriations bills for fiscal 2003, which started Oct. 1.

The state would receive $1.45 million to continue its 20-year plan for improving the Illinois River watershed. That's less than the Senate version of the bill that had included $1.7 million, but about $135,000 above the president's request, according to a list provided by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who sits on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Another $350,000 is earmarked for ongoing environmental restoration work on the Peoria riverfront, about $113,000 more than the Senate had included.

The legislation also includes $225,000 for high-priority infrastructure improvements in Peoria, where local officials hope to create a biosciences research park in partnership with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, local hospitals and colleges.

While far less than the $3 million the city had requested, it's the first federal money received by the project, which was on a priority list developed by Peoria Mayor David Ransburg and the City Council with the help of a Washington lobbyist the city retained last year. The money comes through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Economic Development Initiative.

Also in Peoria, the Biotechnology Research and Development Corp. is slated to receive $3.5 million for research and development. The organization, a consortium of government, university and corporate partners, pools government grants for research in biotech field. The work there has led to about 350 patent applications for practical commercial uses.

Another $200,000 will go to Peoria's ag lab - the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research - to develop bio-based products and bio-energy from agricultural commodities. The research is designed to increase demand for domestic crops.

A total of at least $6 million would go toward replacing buses in downstate Illinois communities, including Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Macomb, and for bus facilities, including Galesburg.

Through the Federal Aviation Administration, the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington-Normal would receive $3 million for an instrument landing system upgrade.

The state also would receive $375,000 to help combat the West Nile virus in Illinois, which led the nation with 62 deaths attributed to the mosquito-born disease. That total includes three deaths in Fulton County and one in Knox County. The funding would go through the University of Illinois for a consortium of state agencies to provide equipment, surveillance and detection support.

For LaSalle County, $225,000 is included for the Youth Service Bureau of Illinois Valley. The money will fund improvements to the Ottawa facility and relocation of the LaSalle facility.

For another high-profile project, the bill provides $7.5 million for continued construction of the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum in Springfield.