Springfield State Journal Register

July 29, 2005

Major Springfield projects in road bill
Illinois to receive $1.5 billion over three years


By DORI MEINERT
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - A $286.5 billion, five-year transportation program headed for approval by Congress includes money to boost two major projects in Springfield: $5 million for a central transportation hub and $4 million for reconstruction of Capitol Avenue from Seventh to 11th streets in the city.

The House was expected to approve a House-Senate compromise bill containing the funding late Thursday or early today. The Senate was also planning to vote on it before leaving for its August recess.

The transportation hub would create a single terminal where Springfield's rail, bus, cab, shuttle and rental car traffic could be centered. The Illinois Department of Transportation awarded the Springfield Mass Transit District $70,000 earlier this year to hire a consultant to begin studying the idea.

The hub probably would be located somewhere along 11th Street, local officials have said, which would allow Amtrak to use the 10th Street railroad tracks and clear the current Third Street rail alignment.

The funds for Capitol Avenue would be used for the first of a planned five-phase project to make Capitol a scenic promenade from Second to 19th streets. Parking would be eliminated, trees would be planted, and the Third Street railroad bridge would be improved or eliminated. The total project is expected to take several years to complete and estimated to cost $11.8 million.

"This bill will provide much-needed and long-overdue investments in transportation in Illinois," said Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who was a member of the House-Senate conference committee that worked out the compromise.

Although the White House had previously threatened to veto the bill because of its cost, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Plano, said he expects President Bush will sign the bill.

"We talk about jobs, jobs, jobs. For every billion dollars that is spent in this highway bill over the next not even five years now, it will create 48,000 jobs in this country," Hastert said.

The compromise reached this week ends nearly a two-year delay in reauthorizing a new transportation program for the nation, a delay that made it difficult for Illinois and other state transportation officials to plan any new major projects. The 1998-2003 transportation program, which totaled $218 billion, was extended 11 times as negotiators sought an agreement.

Last year, both the House and Senate approved bills only to bog down in a House-Senate conference.

The House-Senate compromise would send Illinois an additional $1.5 billion in highway funds over the next five years, or 33 percent more than under the previous transportation program, according to figures provided by Illinois' two senators. Illinois would receive $1.236 billion a year, or $309 million more a year than under the current transportation program.

In addition, Illinois transit programs would receive a total of $2.1 billion over five years, increased from the $1.9 billion the state received over six years under the old program, they said. Some of the state's highest priorities were funded in the bill as projects of "national significance."

They include: $240 million for a new bridge over the Mississippi River near St. Louis and $140 million for a new western access road to O'Hare International Airport.

Other central Illinois projects funded by the bill include:

# $1.7 million for road improvements related to the downtown plaza in Jacksonville.

# $1.26 million for upgrades to Broadway Street in Havana.

# $762,056 for upgrades to Fifth Street Road in Logan County.

# $3.5 million for MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield.

# $2.2 million for upgrades to Cockrell Lane in Springfield.

# $400,000 for pre-construction work for the Sangamon Valley Trail, a hiking and biking trail in the Springfield area.