Gov. calls for lawmakers to pass capital bill

July 29, 2008 4:01:30 PM PDT
Governor Blagojevich is trying to convince lawmakers to approve a capital bill to fund repair work on the state's roads and bridges. His plea comes one day after the release of a federal report that says one in four bridges in the U.S. needs major repairs or improvements.

The governor says hundreds of Illinois bridges are in worse shape than the Minnesota bridge that collapsed one year ago, killing 13 people.

"It's about making sure our bridges are safe. It's about making sure what happens in Minnesota doesn't happen here in Illinois and it's time to start acting," said Gov. Blagojevich.

Governor Blagojevich's message about bridge safety was delivered Tuesday in front of one of Illinois' problem bridges, located in Chicago near McCormick Place. It's one of 1400 bridges that the state says has a worse government safety rating than the one that collapsed in Minnesota last year.

"We look for distortion. We look for corrosion. We look for cracks," said Ralph Anderson IDOT, Bridges & Structures.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is closely monitoring the watch list, according to Anderson.

"We manage the risk and that's our job is to manage the risk and if we can't deal with a situation or specific bridge what we take action to close the bridge or actually restrict the loads," said Anderson.

There are 26,000 bridges in Illinois. According to the state and federal government about 10 percent of them are structurally deficient.

"I haven't personally seen any bridges I was worried about but it does sound like a scary number," said one driver.

Officials say calling a bridge 'structurally deficient' doesn't mean it's unsafe; it means it needs several repairs.

"We are calling on the public and the legislature to keep safety at the forefront and avoid a tragedy," said Todd Ferber, Illinois Road Builder's Association.

On Tuesday, IDOT leaders and the governor put the bridge issue on the forefront to help sell the capital bill to legislators in the house who are stalling. The bill would increase funding for infrastructure and construction jobs. House Speaker Michael Madigan and other members are opposed to it because they wonder if the governor will spend the money fairly. They're also opposed to the funding which would privately lease out the lottery and expand gambling.

"We would like all of the leaders to come and meet with me on Thursday to get back to work to address some of the concerns," said Gov. Blagojevich.

Besides the money issue, just the act of repairing thousands of bridges all at once is challenging. The lifespan of a bridge is 50 years -- but the average age of a bridge in America is 43 years.


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