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Report: State's road are among worst
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/28/2010 3:32 PM | Updated: 4/28/2010 6:55 PM

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A report criticizes the state for shortchanging bridges in bad condition in favor of building new roads.

The Illinois Public Interest Research Group argues that potholes and cracks at highways and bridges across the state are costing motorists at car repair shops. The state ranks 10th in the nation in terms of highest number of roads in poor or mediocre condition, the study states.

But Illinois Department of Transportation officials counter that the nonprofit advocacy group is using outdated data.

Illinois PIRG state Director Brian Imus said state transportation departments are influenced by construction lobbyists to opt for new highway projects that garner attention instead of maintaining what exists.

Using data from the Federal Highway Administration, IPIRG concludes that Illinois has 2,373 structurally deficient bridges.

"We have perverse incentives at the federal level that encourage new highway construction over repair of the current infrastructure we've already built," Imus said. "The state department of transportation can address this with a clear fix-it-first policy."

IDOT spokeswoman Marisa Kollias said the organization "is highlighting old information. The state DOT has already made significant progress on repairs and maintenance needs," she added.

In its multiyear highway planning program from 2011 to 2016, IDOT commits about $4.3 billion for highway maintenance and reconstruction and $2.24 billion for bridge needs. Just $1 billion is allocated for new roads, Kollias said.

The state's intent is to bring 90 percent of highways and 93 percent of bridges to a state of good repair by the end of 2016.

Here's a look at some local bridges considered structurally deficient and how they're being addressed.

• Algonquin Road bridge east of Route 53 in Rolling Meadows is scheduled to be fixed this year.

• Route 173 bridge west of Route 59 in Antioch is scheduled to be replaced later this year.

• Route 21 bridge north of Route 137 in Libertyville is scheduled for to be fixed as part of the 2011-2016 multiyear plan.