There’s an old joke about the weather in Chicago. Everyone talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. The same can be said about the infrastructure approach of our federal government – until now.
Last week, Illinois was named the No. 1 state for Best Infrastructure by CNBC. Unfortunately, state and local government efforts to modernize our infrastructure have not been matched by the federal government, which has left state and local governments to their own devices. For example, Governor JB Pritzker signed the Rebuild Illinois Act last year to invest $ 45 billion in Illinois roads, bridges, railways, universities, daycare and government facilities over the next six years. However, the US Congress has not re-approved the national land transportation law since December 2015.
As a result, our infrastructure has deteriorated and repairs have become more expensive. To put this in perspective, Illinois motorists are paying an average of $ 600 or more to repair the damage to their cars due to the state’s 2,374 bridges and more than 6,200 miles of dilapidated freeway. We also pay in wasted time. Since 2011, local commute times have skyrocketed, regardless of how we get to work. Even Illinois residents who use public transportation spend nearly 70 percent of their time commuting than they did a decade ago.
Meanwhile, the Cook County government is investing millions of dollars in local communities through Invest in Cook, a program to cover part of the cost of design and feasibility studies, engineering, rights of way and construction related to local transportation improvements. These projects include a county partnership with Rolling Meadows to pay for the preliminary planning for the intersection of Algonquin and New Wilke Roads. Earlier this year, Schaumburg County awarded $ 145,000 for improvements to pedestrian crossings throughout the village. Such local projects enrich our communities and make the suburbs in the northwest safer.
Now a bipartisan group of 21 senators has proposed an infrastructure plan to offer these types of projects and solutions across the country, which President Joe Biden has approved. It would help the federal government repair our highways and modernize local public transport while creating millions of well-paid jobs. The proposal provides for $ 110 billion for roads, bridges and major projects, $ 25 billion for airports and $ 1 billion for “reconnecting communities”.
The House of Representatives has already managed to pass a major infrastructure package – the INVEST in America Act. This law contains numerous provisions to finance specific urban transport projects that create jobs and increase community access. In our own communities, it includes road rehabilitation projects and environmentally friendly program installations.
What is important is that the bipartisan federal infrastructure plan would put our country on the path to a cleaner environment with groundbreaking investments in green energy and clean water. It would build a network of charging stations for electric vehicles and get us on the way to electrifying school and local buses. It would also help communities get rid of dangerous lead pipes and enable the construction of more than 600,000 new aqueducts across Illinois.
This legislation would also increase our economic competitiveness. One in four Cook County’s residents currently does not have broadband, but the bipartisan framework provides $ 65 billion to improve and expand broadband infrastructure.
We may not be able to do anything about the Chicago weather. But we can do something about our country’s aging infrastructure. It is time to turn conversation into action and forge the federal partnership we need to move forward, maintain our place as the world’s leading economy, and invest in our communities.
• US MP Raja Krishnamoorthi, of is a Democrat from Schaumburg. Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison is a Democrat from Elk Grove Village.