Peoria Journal Star

March 11, 2005

Bill would give central Illinois road projects millions
$284 billion measure passes in House but still faces hurdles

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The House on Thursday approved a $284 billion, six-year transportation bill that earmarks millions of dollars for central Illinois projects.

Among them is a planned parking garage in Downtown Peoria, which is targeted to receive $1 million at the request of U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. The parking garage was listed as among the more "egregious" pork-barrel projects contained in the bill, according to the Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The politically popular bill, which passed 417 to 9, still faces many hurdles, including a veto threat from the White House if the price tag increases.

Over six years, the bill would provide $225.5 billion for highways, $52.3 billion for transit programs and $6 billion for safety programs.

Congress hasn't been able to reach agreement on a new six-year highway and transit plan for the nation since the last one expired in September 2003. The House and Senate last year approved vastly different bills, and negotiators couldn't reach a compromise before Congress adjourned and the bills died.

"This is one of the most important bills this Congress can pass," said House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano. "It's estimated for every $1 billion we spend on road construction, nearly 48,000 jobs are created. But it's more than jobs. We need an adequate infrastructure to move people and the materials they make efficiently."

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to take up the highway bill next week. Lawmakers hope to send a compromise agreement to the White House before the latest temporary extension of the old transportation bill expires May 31.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Vanover said officials won't publicly assess the impact of the bill on Illinois until there is a final version.

"We don't want to get people's hopes up," he said.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill over a provision that would allow lawmakers to reopen the legislation and add more funding if negotiations for a more equitable disbursement among the states isn't reached. Illinois is one of the "donor" states, which pay more in federal gas taxes than it receives back.

Meanwhile, taxpayers' advocates criticized the bill as a "pork-laden budgetbuster."

The bill contains more than 4,100 projects worth about $12.4 billion, more than the $11 bil-

lion in last year's version, according to the fiscal watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The bill is "leading us down the road to fiscal ruin," said the group's vice president Keith Ashdown.

Many of the central Illinois projects were included in last year's ill-fated bill. Some of the funding amounts differ from what was included in the previous bill.

The central Illinois projects include:

- $3 million for a study and land acquisition for the so-called eastern Peoria bypass, or "ring road," that includes a new Illinois River bridge at Mossville.

- $2 million for preconstruction activities for a Peoria-to-Macomb highway via Canton, dubbed Route 336.

- $2 million for Illinois Route 6 to Interstate 180 for study and land acquisition.

- $2 million for Pioneer Parkway upgrades in Peoria, extending it from Allen Road to Illinois Route 91.

- $1 million for Veterans Parkway, a new bypass road on the east side of Pekin to connect Illinois Route 29 to Interstate 474.

- $1 million for Peoria riverfront street improvements and a parking structure near the proposed museum.

- $1 million for East Peoria Technology Boulevard upgrades.

- $1 million for street improvements in Rushville.

- $952,000 for street widening and sidewalks in Bartonville.

- $952,572 for upgrades to Broadway Street in Havana.

- $952,570 for pre-construction work for upgrades to Illinois Route 8 from East Peoria to Washington.

- $280,000 for Muller Road rehabilitation in Washington.

- $2 million for a bus, train and airport facility in downtown Normal.

- $4 million to replace the Interstate 74 bridge at Moline.

- $750,000 for improving railroad crossings in Galesburg.

- $952,570 for upgrades to Fifth Street Road in Logan County.

- $500,000 to improve U.S. Route 34 from Kewanee to Kentville Road.