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Gov. signs $31 billion construction plan
Associated Press

Gov. Pat Quinn, surrounded by legislators, hands a pen to an audience member after signing one of several measures that make up a $31 billion construction plan on Monday in Chicago.


Associated Press

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Published: 7/13/2009 2:17 PM | Updated: 7/13/2009 8:03 PM

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Gov. Pat Quinn on Monday approved the state's first construction spending plan in over a decade - a $31 billion infusion expected to create thousands of jobs and help rebuild the state's crumbling infrastructure that will be paid for through new and higher taxes and a vast expansion of legalized gambling.

The law won wide praise, including among bicycling enthusiasts, labor leaders and school officials. But it drew the ire of gambling opponents who say many people will lose large sums of money now that the state has made it legal to bet on the video poker machines found in many bars, restaurants and truck stops.

In the suburbs, the money funds projects ranging from additional lanes of Rt. 59 in Naperville, an Algonquin bypass of Rt. 31 and reconstruction on the Kennedy Expressway to construction work at College of Lake County, College of DuPage, Northern Illinois University and scores of suburban elementary and high schools.

"This is jobs. This is Illinois recovery. We've got to get our economy back on track," Quinn said at the bill signing at a West Side Chicago high school. "And, as Franklin Roosevelt said a long time ago, the best way to do it is to prime the pump with public works where the government steps in and builds buildings and builds a lot of other things that the people need."

The bill includes $14.3 billion for work on roads and bridges, $7 billion for other transportation projects such as high-speed rail, $3.6 billion for primary education - most of it for building schools - and $1.5 billion for higher education.

A spokeswoman for the governor said the construction plan will support 439,000 jobs over the next six years. She said she wasn't immediately sure how many new jobs that is expected to include.

Illinois has not had a major government construction initiative since Illinois FIRST more than 10 years ago. The state since then has not been able to keep up with demand for new or rebuilt highways, bridges, schools and public transportation systems.

Legislators say this construction program allocates money more responsibly than past public works programs.

The vast majority of the money will be spent according to existing formulas - so much for each region of the state, so much for this kind of road or that kind of bridge.

About $500 million has been set aside for legislators' pet projects, but all those projects are supposed to be spelled out rather than kept secret.

In addition, Quinn has discretion over about $1 billion. He said he will spend the money on transportation needs, environmental protection and increasing broadband access.

The largest outlay in the new capital bill will be the $14.3 billion aimed at the state's network of roads and bridges. Just under $10 billion of that would fund a program of repair work, while $4 million would be spent on new construction.

The University of Illinois' flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign will get $57.3 million to gut and renovate Lincoln Hall. Virtually every student at that campus has had at least one class there, but it's never had a major overhaul since it was built in 1911, said Randy Kangas, the university's vice president for planning and budgeting.

The campus will also get $60 million in long-promised state funding for the construction of a new supercomputer facility that will, for a time, be home to the world's fastest computer.

The bill also includes tens of millions of dollars for the state's Department of Natural Resources, including $17.8 million for bicycle trails.

Quinn initially refused to sign the construction plan until a new state budget was worked out, too, but he eventually relented. Two weeks into the new fiscal year, Quinn and top lawmakers still haven't agreed on a new budget.

Illinois will pay for the public works program by selling bonds - in effect, borrowing money and repaying it over 20 or 30 years. The money to repay that debt will come from a variety of taxes and fees, plus a major gambling expansion.

Drivers will pay more for licenses and registrations. The tax on beer, wine and hard liquor is going up. Sales tax will be charged on more items, including iced tea.

Suburban capital spending

Among suburban projects in the $31 billion capital spending program signed by Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn on Monday:

• $125 million for additional lanes at Illinois Route 59 from Ferry Road to Aurora Avenue in Naperville

• $82 million for Algonquin bypass route of Illinois Route 31 west of downtown Algonquin

• $32 million for additional lanes at U.S. Route 45 from Washington Street to Illinois Route 120

• $125 million for Expressway Reconstruction and Auxiliary Lanes at Interstate Route 190 (Kennedy Expressway) from Bessie Coleman Drive to Interstate Route 90

• $19 million for additional lanes for Algonquin Road from Eastings Way to Penney Road

• $15 million for interchange modifications at U.S. Route 20 at Illinois Route 59

• $2.7 billion to Chicago-area public transit, leveraging up to $2.7 billion in additional federal funds

• $322 million for the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program

• $41 million to Harper College to construct one stop admissions and campus/student center

• $36 million to College of Lake County to construct the student services building

• $25 million to College of DuPage - Glen Ellyn to replace temporary facilities

• $22.5 million to Northern Illinois University to expand/renovate the Stevens Building

• $8 million to Northern Illinois University to renovate Cole Hall

• $6.3 million to the Illinois Math and Science Academy to renovate residence halls

• $672,000 to McHenry County College to construct a greenhouse

• $17 million to the Fermi National Accelerator Lab (Batavia) the Illinois Accelerator Research Center

• $13 million to the Argonne National Lab for Advanced Protein Crystallization Facility

Statewide projects include:

• $400 million for high-speed rail, which could access up to $2 billion in ARRA funds • $10 million for an electrification transportation alternative fuel car-sharing program

• $3 billion for the school construction program

• $200 million for the school maintenance program

• $100 million for a new school energy efficiency retrofit program

• $10 million for student laptop computers

• $300 million for park and recreational facilities

• $150 million for health care facilities

• $130 million for affordable housing, including projects for veterans and people with disabilities • $100 million for museums

• $100 million for public libraries

• $50 million for community health center construction

• $250 million for projects such as levees, flood walls and drainage structures