Quinn cites need for more infrastructure work

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Much has been done toward infrastructure improvements in Illinois during the last five years, Gov. Pat Quinn said Tuesday. But he said the last thing the state should do now is rest on its laurels.

“We have done a lot in the last five years and we want to do much more in the next five years,” said Quinn, who plans to appoint a bipartisan commission that will formulate a plan for the next five years. He did not, however, discuss how it would be funded.

But continuing to invest in the state’s roads and other infrastructure is imperative, the governor said during a speech at the Innovations Conference on Asphalt and Transportation at the Par-A-Dice Hotel in East Peoria. The governor was one of many speakers at the two-day conference that attracted more  than 500 business and government leaders from the transportation and infrastructure industry.

Other speakers included Ann Schneider, secretary of transportation for the Illinois Department of Transportation, Kristi Lafleur, executive director of Illinois Tollways, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, and Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

Introducing Quinn, State Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, also brought up state spending on infrastructure in the last five years. He said in 2009, in the midst of the recession, all 50 states allocated a combined total of $39 billion for infrastructure needs. Illinois, he said, allocated $31 billion of that $39 billion.

That demonstrated, he said, Quinn’s commitment to invest in the state to keep it strong and competitive nationally and globally.

In his speech Quinn said the state’s geographic position makes it clear that is a priority. “We are at the crossroads of the United States. We are the heart of the heartland. We have to invest in our state,” he said.

Citing a passage from Proverbs, “If there is no vision, people perish,” Quinn said Illinois must have a clear vision of what it needs to continue the growth from the last five years.

Quinn said the best laid plans often get snagged by things out of the state’s control; namely, the weather. One incident was the Nov. 17 tornado that ripped through central Illinois, causing heavy damage in Pekin, East Peoria and in particular, Washington. He pointed out Washington Mayor Gary Manier, who was attending the conference, and said he “has done an excellent job helping his city to start the rebuilding process.”

Quinn also mentioned damage done to infrastructure by this year’s harsh winter weather and last year’s heavy flooding.

Despite setbacks, the state must continue to move forward and, he added, it must approach its infrastructure investments in a sustainable manner. “We need to make every day Earth Day in Illinois” while searching out and implementing energy efficient ways of operating.

Quinn said there are 6,900 infrastructure projects waiting to be done in Illinois. “Some are small and some are large, but all of them are important,” he said.

Quinn said the team approach works well in Illinois and that he wants it to continue. With that, he said Ann Schneider is a strong team leader for the state. He then presented her with the Heartland Sustainability Award presented annual at the Innovations Conference.

The mission of the conference is to develop a network of business leaders, policymakers and scholars from across the nation to promote partnerships and alliances, explore funding alternatives and address challenges facing the infrastructure industry.

One of the key meetings this year will be a panel discussion on Transportation Funding Options for Illinois. The discussion, at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, will be chaired by State Sen. Martin Sandoval, chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee.

Other panelists will include Koehler, State Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, and State Rep. Mike Unes, R-East Peoria, as well as Schneider and Kay Batey from the Federal Highway Administration.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).