JOLIET – Help could be on the way if Will County is able to latch onto some of the billions in federal highway dollars being made available to address freight transportation issues around the nation.
The U.S. House on Thursday approved a five-year, $305 billion transportation bill that has gotten a lot of attention for being the first long-term highway bill passed in years.
Locally, officials have pointed to a special fund created for freight transportation projects.
“There’s nothing that specifies where the money is going in the bill,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Western Springs. But the bill does create “funding specifically for projects that will move freight more efficiently.”
Lipinski, whose district includes part of northern Will County, said the highway bill should provide some relief for freight issues locally.
“In Will County, there’s the issue of the traffic caused by the intermodals,” he said. “I believe that is something that will be helped by the freight program.”
Lipinski was a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee that worked out differences to create a compromise bill, which is the first long-term federal highway bill in 10 years.
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, whose district includes Joliet, has pointed to the need for a long-term highway bill to fund projects such as widening Interstate 80 and a Houbolt Road bridge to relieve truck congestion in the region.
Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk has been voicing growing confidence that the proposed Houbolt Road bridge, which would span the Des Plaines River to create a direct connection between CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet and Interstate 80, will be built. This week, O’Dekirk said he wanted the city’s 2016 budget to account for the beginning of work on the bridge.
U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Winfield, whose district also includes part of northern Will County, issued a news release Thursday saying the highway bill “will allow our local communities to plan years down the road for much-needed projects.”
Hultgren said Illinois will get an average of $1.5 billion a year from the highway bill and $7.5 billion through 2020. Illinois will get another $3 billion through 2020 in funding for mass transit.
Senate approval was expected later Thursday.