Springfield State Journal-Register
Peoria Journal Star
March 11, 2005

Roads bill includes money for central Illinois

BYLINE: Dori Meinert Copley News Service

DATELINE: WASHINGTON

BODY:
The House Thursday approved a mammoth $284 billion six-year transportation bill that earmarks millions of dollars for central Illinois projects.

Among the local projects is a planned parking garage in downtown Peoria, which is earmarked to receive $1 million at the request of Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria. The parking garage was listed as among the more "egregious" pork-barrel projects contained in the bill, according 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 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 there 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 earmarked projects worth about $12.4 billion, more than the $11 billion 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 pre-construction activities for a Macomb-Peoria highway via Canton, dubbed Route 336.

- $2 million for U.S. 67 west of the Jacksonville bypass to east of Illinois 100.

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

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

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

- $3 million to widen U.S. Route 51 from Pana to Vandalia.

- $1.5 million for MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield.

- $952,572 for upgrades to Cockrell Lane in Springfield.

- $500,000 for pre-construction work for Sangamon Valley Trail, a hiking and biking trail in the Springfield area.

- $600,000 for Route 29 extension in Taylorville.

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