Well-connected winners in big-money road repair plan

April 7, 2011 5:21:59 PM PDT
Governor Pat Quinn announced billions of dollars in statewide road and bridge repair projects on Thursday.

The governor said "politics have been removed" from the funding of state road projects. In this Intelligence Report: There are some well-connected winners in Gov. Quinn's road funding plan.

Governor Quinn promised his $11.5 billion spending plan takes politics out of highways. But the governor didn't mention taking politicians out. So the I-Team looked into which legislative districts received the most money for highways and the politicians who represent them.

Accompanied by a symphony of jackhammers, Governor Quinn conducted an unveiling of his six-year plan to work on more than 3,000 miles of roads and 600 bridges.

"We don't want to play politics with roads in Illinois," said Gov. Quinn.

The plan is to create 155,000 jobs.

"We have our list today of all the different projects statewide, and I want to emphasize, this is for all of Illinois," said Quinn.

Their list reveals the top-funded districts are represented by legislators who serve on government transportation committees: The 49th State Senate District in Carlinville slated to receive $459 million, the most of any Senate district in the state. The senator from there, Sam McCann, is a member of the transportation committee that helps set transportation policy and determine funding.

McCann says he's been in the Senate "just shy of three months" and that this is a work product of a process that started before he arrived. He told the I-Team, "I don't see any way that me being on the transportation committee could affect these numbers that we have in front of us."

Next is the 111th State House District in Alton, set to receive $261 million, among the five richest road project districts statewide. The state rep there, Daniel Beiser, chairman of the house transportation committee that oversees roads and bridges.

Finally, the 37th State Senate District, Peoria, is authorized for 117 highway projects, the highest number in the state. The new senator for that district is the son of Ray LaHood, secretary of the US transportation department, an Obama appointee and a former Illinois congressman.

Senator Darin LaHood says: "I literally just got sworn in four weeks ago." He wasn't familiar with what happened in the roll out Thursday and doesn't think father's position with feds has anything to do with Quinn road funding.

The I-Team received no call back from the House Transportation Committee chairman. The state transportation department insists IDOT funding is based on road and bridge needs and that politics "plays no role whatsoever in IDOT's decision-making."


"The Illinois Department of Transportation prepares its Multi-Year Program based on transportation needs as determined by annual condition ratings of pavements and bridges, and long-term planning -- as was demonstrated by today's announcement. Politics plays no role in our decision-making, whatsoever. To suggest otherwise is simply not accurate." Guy Tridgell
Communication manager
Illinois Department of Transportation

Multi-Year Planning Protocol


Program Objectives

*Preserve and maintain the existing highway system of roads and bridges.
*Upgrade existing facilities for congestion mitigation and safety improvements.
*Expand the system to enhance economic development.

Program Planning
*Estimate revenues from federal and state sources.
*Deduct costs for administration, maintenance and operations, certain other state agency operations and bond debt service to determine available funds. Determine the annual amount as well as the multi-year period.
*Assess highway needs for preservation, increased capacity and expansion of the highway system.
Assess physical condition of the highway system, including bridges, using technical data and processes.
Identify crash locations and safety needs.
Identify needed additional capacity improvements on existing roads and new major arterials to relieve congestion and enhance economic development.

*The pavement and structural condition ratings, the type and volume of traffic being served, the functional importance of the route, accident history, geometrics and public input are considered in developing proposed projects. *Funding targets and technical guidelines are issued to the Illinois Department of Transportation's (IDOT) nine highway districts to develop, prioritize and submit projects for inclusion in the multi-year program (MYP). This guarantees statewide consistency in the overall level of service and ensures that each district is achieving the overall objectives of IDOT.
*Engineering, land acquisition, utility adjustments and construction are scheduled for each project as needed.
*The anticipated Fiscal Year for construction is dependent on the status of preconstruction activities and availability of resources.
*An annual element is identified that forms the basis of the proposed highway improvement program for the upcoming fiscal year.
*The program is reviewed and announced by the Governor.
*The published MYP is a highway improvement program developed by engineers using technical data. It is presented to the General Assembly and the public for review and discussion during the appropriation process.