Fixing our crumbling roads, bridges
SouthtownStar editorial January 11, 2012 7:40PM
Updated: February 13, 2012 9:20AM
Congress has been all but paralyzed for two years, making it tough to remember how things were when Congress “worked.”
For one thing, when regional groups such as the Transportation for Illinois Coalition made pleas for rational investment in the nation, Congress would pay attention. The coalitions researched issues, made presentations and took their case to Washington. As a result, money was appropriated to achieve the goal. Really. This is how things used to work.
In this case, the coalition, which represents many development agencies in South Cook and Will counties, has sent an urgent call to help improve Illinois roads as well those across the country — proposing spending $500 billion for six years worth of projects.
The coalition, which was formed a decade ago, has plenty of evidence to support what most Illinois drivers know intuitively — many of our roads are bad, and they’re getting worse at a rapid rate.
By 2017, one mile of road out of four in the state will be in unacceptable condition, an exhaustive study by the coalition predicts. The study says about 2,200 bridges — out of 26,300 in the state — are structurally deficient, and bad roads cost motorists an average of $340 annually in vehicle damage.
Although it may seem long ago, Congress usually addressed major infrastructure issues with long-term funding. But the last multiyear federal funding package for highways expired in 2009 and has been extended eight times. We’ve become a nation that governs month to month. A few billion here as a stopgap, a few billion there. The multiyear package dies again in March.
We acknowledge that Uncle Sam is deeply in debt, but maintaining essential infrastructure is a central role of government at every level. How about diverting some billions by building fewer fighter jets or missiles for a couple of years?
Meanwhile, Illinois and every other state limps along with deteriorating infrastructure, hoping for help and losing hope it will come. This is what happens when Congress does not work.