State Coalition Cites Concern with Transportation Funding
By Jeff Bossert
Contractors, economic officials, and others involved in road construction are trying to bring attention to a lack of state transportation funding in Illinois.
The Transportation for Illinois Coalition hosted a roundtable talk in Urbana Thursday. The group cites a nearly $3-billion funding mark for Illinois' Department of Transportation in fiscal 2012, cut to $1.75for the current fiscal year, hurting highway projects and construction jobs.
Joe Lamb with Open Road Paving Company says so-called diversions in that funding are a ‘game changer’, particularly for District 5 around Champaign. And he says road planners might be willing to support a new state or federal gas tax.
"But I think before, in light of the appetite of the public, if we could just get back what we had and see what that would do for us without the diversions, it would be a nice starting point," he said. "It would certainly put a lot more people to work and a lot more roads being repaired throughout the district."
Lamb says the Coalition is working with Illinois’ Department of Transportation to identify shortfalls.
"Sometimes if the contractor is the one yelling about it, he's got a separate issue, or an ax to grind," he said. "But when the whole industry is brought together and you can see the suffering, the collective suffering, from the labor side, the management side - an IDOT. I mean, IDOT's maybe in the worst spot of all, because they're getting blamed for something that's frankly, not their fault."
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard cited local efforts to make up for the shortfall and build up infrastructure, including gas taxes in Champaign and Urbana.
TFIC Managing Director Jennifer Morrison expects to plan more of these discussions around the state to gather local input, and to show legislators about the need for new revenue.