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Engineers against Pritzkers plan to shift downstate road money to Chicago

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(The Center Square) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan to divert $175 million from money used for road and bridge repairs around Illinois to Chicago public transportation is not sitting well with many.

Pritzker included the funding move in his State of the State and budget address last month. Public transportation costs for things like commuter rail and city busing have been historically paid for by the state’s General Revenue Fund since they are not associated with capital improvements, repairs or upgrades.

The American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois unveiled its 2024 legislative agenda, including urging the legislature to reject Pritzker’s proposal.

Kevin Artl, president of the ACEC Illinois, said such a move would delay road and bridge projects and slow the modernization of the state’s transportation network.

“Transit agencies’ operating costs cannot come at the expense of existing Rebuild Illinois programs designed to maintain a safe, modern and reliable transportation network of roads, bridges, airports and rail,” Artl said.

According to the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, the $175 million loss in road funding would multiply to more than a $1 billion impact in lost road and bridge improvements over the next few years.

Dorval Carter, Chicago Transit Authority president, said his agency is financially strapped.

“The impact of a $700 million gap in our budget is basically completely devastating,” Carter said during a recent Chicago City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Way hearing.

Carter said the transit agency plans to restore reduced train and bus service to pre-pandemic levels sometime this year. He said ridership topped 1 million for 27 days last year, but numbers are still over 50% short of pre-pandemic levels.

Also included in ACEC Illinois’ 2024 legislative agenda is a call for continued appropriation of funds for training and retention of engineering talent through education tax credits that will provide for a tax credit of 10% of the salary paid by engineering firms to recent graduates of Illinois’ engineering schools and 5% of the salary paid to recent graduates of engineering schools outside of Illinois.

“Illinois is home to some of the nation’s very best engineering schools, it only makes sense that we do all we can to make sure these graduates from Illinois schools stay right here and work on these transformative projects,” said Lou Gallucci, chair-elect of ACEC Illinois.