Metro East To Get $1.8 Billion For Road And Bridge Repairs and Improvements
COLLINSVILLE — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced a $21.3 billion plan to improve roads and bridges in the state over the next six years, including $1.82 billion in the area that includes the Metro East.
“Illinois remains a hub of commerce and transit,” Pritzker said. “We’re the fifth-largest economy in the United States and the crossroads for national and international companies who need our roads, airports, rail, rivers and people to move their products.”
The largest projects in the Metro East include bridge rehabilitation and road reconstruction on Interstates 55/64 between the Poplar Street Bridge and the interchange in St. Clair County where the interstates split.
In the coming years, the transportation department plans to continue work on Interstate 255 south from the road construction it’s completing on the highway this year. IDOT will also replace the Interstate 270 bridge that crosses the Mississippi River in Madison County.
The investment in road, bridges and other state infrastructure underscores Pritzker’s goal to bring Illinois to the federal standard of transportation asset maintenance.
“That standard puts an end to the practice of letting roads and bridges in Illinois deteriorate until they’re in just terrible shape,” he said. “Instead we’re investing on the front end saving money.”
Other local elected leaders joined Pritzker at the announcement on Tuesday, voicing their support for the proposed projects.
State Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Collinsville, said the investments will help put Illinoisans to work, especially during the coronavirus pandemic when many residents have lost jobs.
“It’s an investment in the rest of us as well, too,” she said. “It’s going to help us bring business and industry right here to the Metro East as well as across other parts of the state.”
The roadway improvements also fit well with the many forms of transportation in the St. Louis region, which Stuart said is key to economic growth and development.
“We’re rolling out the welcome mat to businesses,” she said.
Comments on coronavirus
Pritzker made his remarks in Collinsville on Tuesday as the Metro East experiences a sharp rise in positive coronavirus test results, driven mostly by positive cases in St. Clair and Madison counties.
“This pandemic is still very much here, and remains a very serious threat,” he said. “Metro East is at risk of tipping over to the higher case and death counts that we see in other parts of the country.”
The region has one of the highest rates of coronavirus cases and transmission in Illinois, Pritzker said. The Metro East has a seven-day average positivity rate of 7.1%, according to the Illinois Department of Health’s regional dashboard.
Testing positivity is the percentage of positive coronavirus test results compared to the total number of people tested.
Pritzker called on local elected leaders to make sure their residents are following guidelines to help slow the spread of the virus. He warned the state would intervene if COVID-19 cases continue to rise, which could mean restricting or closing restaurants, bars or other businesses.
“It could also mean capacity restrictions for gyms and retail and shutdowns at salons and personal care facilities,” Pritzker said.
The governor stressed that Metro East residents need to follow the state’s rules for mitigating the virus, like wearing a mask, especially when traveling to states and regions with fewer restrictions, like communities in Missouri.
“To a large degree this is about personal responsibility,” Pritzker said. “Nobody can be following you all day long and telling you, ‘put on a mask’ when you go into a public place.”
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program: Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Follow Eric on Twitter: @EricDSchmid
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