Illinois road work gets moving again -- at quite a cost
The recently passed state budget has apparently allowed road construction projects in Illinois to get back to business, albeit with a hefty price tag, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Illinois is looking at a bill of as much as $30 million after shutting down 700 projects around the state. Those sites had to be maintained and the work is reportedly beginning again this week, the Tribune said.
Some sites were closed prior to the June 30 deadline at which point the state said it would no longer be able to pay workers.
“For some of these sites, we can’t wait to the last minute to shut them down, Michael Sturino, the president and CEO of the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association, told the Sangamon Sun before the end of June. “In those cases, the process has already begun.”
IDOT officials were concerned that a prolonged shutdown and rising temperature could lead to "buckling or blowing out" on roads being serviced.
“If and when we get to that point, safety will be our No. 1 priority,” Sturino said before the budget passed. “But like everything else, demobilizing costs money. It’s just a crazy situation.”
The situation isn't unfamiliar in the long cash-strapped state. Last year, legislators found themselves in a similar situation before a last-minute compromise saved the day in the form of a stopgap budget.
House Minority Leader John Cullerton (D-Chicago) had let it be known that a stopgap measure was not going to be acceptable this time.
“Besides all the day-to-day headaches for everyone, to have to shut down everything now would put us far behind schedule on everything,” Sturino said. “Nothing about this makes sense.”
Sturino claims that the funds needed to keep the road projects running existed at the time, but it didn't matter.
“There is money for projects, but with no budget the law doesn’t allow you to move forward with programs,” he said. “I’ve been in this role since 2009, and this is as bad as I’ve seen it. There are a lot of different opinions but no common ground.”
Illinois currently faces a $15 billion backlog of unpaid bills.