The Transportation for Illinois Coalition recognized Will County area state legislators at a ceremony Monday for their work on passing the $45 billion capital bill this past spring.
TFIC recognized Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, and Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, as well as Rep. John Connor, D-Lockport, as friends of infrastructure at the Gateway Center, Joliet's Metra station.
Bertino-Tarrant joked that it was always "humbling to get awards when you're doing your job," but also recognized the significance of the new infrastructure investment. She said she now looks forward to getting asked about what the state legislature accomplished, especially because in past years there wasn't nearly as much progress to talk about in regard to new infrastructure funding.
"I will gladly explain to people why I voted for this bill," she said.
Kevin Burke, the TFIC co-chair and executive vice president of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association, commended the legislators for their work. He said even though the bill asked more of residents, their money will go toward ensuring safe transportation conditions across the state. The TFIC is an umbrella organization of construction and transportation groups that worked with the state legislature to secure funding for construction through the capital bill, according to a news release. The capital bill includes millions of dollars to go toward local transit projects like a new transit center for Pace buses near the Metra station. The project, in partnership with the city of Joliet, will cost $8 million, with about $6.3 million coming from the state capital bill.
Rocky Donahue, executive director of Pace, said the bus service has 12 routes that serve the Joliet station every day, with 2,500 daily trips through downtown. Donahue said for every dollar invested in public transit, $4 are returned to the community, citing an estimate from the American Public Transit Association.
"As public transit grows, the community grows," Donahue said.
The transit center will be the latest project showing the growth in demand for bus service in Will County. Last month, Pace joined a number of local officials for the grand opening of a new Park-n-Ride location in Plainfield. Donahue said there are also plans for a future multimillion-dollar Pace bus parking garage at a yet-to-be-determined site in Plainfield or Bolingbrook. He said the growth in demand for bus services in Will County has made it necessary to build more storage for the buses.
"These are good challenges to have," Donahue said.