Rauner: Will County bridge project near intermodal facilities to fuel economy
Acknowledging the financial challenges continuing to face Illinois despite a recently approved stopgap spending budget, Gov. Bruce Rauner is plowing ahead to improve the state’s economy.
“Every challenge we have will be overcome by economic growth, through more jobs, through economic development and more economic empowerment," Rauner said recently. "That’s the answer to every one of our challenges."
Toward that goal, Rauner recently joined Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) Secretary Randy Blankenhorn and business leaders to announce an agreement between the state, local governments and CenterPoint Properties to build a new Houbolt Road bridge linking Interstate 80 and the intermodal facilities in Will County, which are home to thousands of jobs and $75 billion in freight activity every year.
“Illinois is the transportation hub of America," Rauner said. "Will County is the transportation hub of Illinois. This project is moving our economy forward. We are all about growing jobs in Illinois -- high-paying, high-quality jobs that create careers for everybody. Transportation and transportation infrastructure are the foundation for doing that,” Rauner said.
This first-of-its-kind project in Illinois has an estimated total price tag of $170 million to $190 million. CenterPoint is picking up the biggest portion, while IDOT will contribute $21 million to widen Houbolt Road and reconfigure the existing interchange with I-80 to support increased traffic. The City of Joliet will work with IDOT to implement and oversee the improvements.
When completed, the project will alleviate traffic congestion on local roads, improve safety, and further strengthen the state’s economy, the governor said in announcing the project.
“The project is long overdue and will only enhance the region’s position as a freight hub for North America and an economic engine for the state,” Rauner said.
Illinois needs more projects like these to fund infrastructure and keep Illinois competitive far into the 21st century to ensure economic growth, Rauner said.
“We need more economic opportunity in every neighborhood, in every community, and we need to do a better job of investing in our schools,” Rauner said.
Following the project’s announcement, Rauner said he’s also ready to sign a balanced budget, though he’s frustrated that most legislators are preoccupied with the November elections. Rauner said the stopgap spending plan basically exists to help the state get through that period, but he doesn’t want to wait on balancing the state’s budget.
“I believe that when we get a balanced budget, and we get more economic growth here, we can have the right infrastructure for our social-services safety net that really meets the needs of our most vulnerable families," Rauner said. "We need more jobs and economic growth, and the money should come first to our schools."