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OUR VIEW: Infrastructure funds require thought

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President Joe Biden and Gov. J.B. Pritzker speak at O'Hare airport during the president's visit to Illinois last month.  Illinois is expected to receive at least $17 billion in the new infrastructure bill. 

Let’s not go at this in a directionless, improvisatory fashion.

Illinois needs a comprehensive infrastructure plan, a map for investing the $17 billion the state will receive from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.

The last American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card gave Illinois a C- grade. Construction work on our local roads and on state and interstate highways regularly show the overdue nature of work with asphalt and concrete. In Illinois there are 2,374 bridges and over 6,218 miles of highway in poor condition

But there’s more to infrastructure than roads and bridges. The act will also provide funds for public transportation, help protect the resilience of physical and natural systems, ensure water availability and quantity, provide countrywide high-speed internet, and upgrade the power infrastructure.

The opposition to the plan appears to be because it’s come under President Biden. Presidents and congressmen from both sides of the aisle have dragged their feet on making a move on the infrastructure for administration after administration.

A complaint about the bill from at least two national columnists concerns public transit. Their argument says Biden’s plan pours too much into that area, and it’s a waste because fewer people will use public transportation when their lifestyle changes to working from home. Somehow, that argument was also twisted into a complaint about the public transit effort also being a sneaky way of putting climate change into the infrastructure bill.

Inaction or active opposition action has battled infrastructure efforts for years. Anyone who’s opposed this bill has had an opportunity to construct and present their own ideas. If you don’t like it because you didn’t think it, you should have thought of something while you were saying “no.”

This is a once-in-a-lifetime effort. It cannot be handled in the “typical” Illinois fashion of backroom bargains and grift. Millions of lives can improve for the better. Illinois’ central location and its availability of multiple methods to move goods is vital to the well-being of the United States economy. Illinois is a vitally important transportation hub.

And when they do, maybe some of the beneficiaries will be able to press Illinois U.S. Representatives Darin LaHood and Rodney Davis to explain their votes opposing the bill. Or ask whether either actually thought their sleight-of-hand of conflating the infrastructure bill with the social services bill. They’re two different bills. The Congressmen knew that.


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