The very day that United States Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood is viewing the I-74 Bridge at the invitation of Congressmen Bobby Schilling (IL-17) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02), it became public that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has instructed the Illinois Department of Transportation to devote $22 million in FY2017 and $50 million in FY2018 for the I-74 Bridge.
This follows the Iowa Department of Transportation's announcement from earlier this week about its intent to continue moving forward on planning and acquisition funding but take I-74 Bridge construction funds out of its long-term plans as a result of a lack of construction commitment from ILDOT. The Illinois Department of Transportation had previously announced April 30 had allocated minimal funds for the project. Schilling and Loebsack also wrote members of the House and Senate negotiating a comprehensive highway bill urging them to prioritize funding for large interstate projects such as the I-74 Bridge.
"We are pleased that the state of Illinois is joining the Quad Cities team, and the Iowa DOT, and is working to move this project forward," the Congressmen said. "Though it doesn't appear to be on the same timeline as was previously planned for, it's a step in the right direction. We encourage the Iowa and Illinois Departments of Transportation to ensure they are moving forward on the same timeline so the groundwork is laid for this project to move to construction, and work with us to advance the I-74 Bridge."
Schilling had previously pushed the Illinois Department of Transportation for information as to where on the Department's priority list the I-74 Bridge project resides and the criteria being used to prioritize Illinois' infrastructure needs, noting that "projects totaling millions of dollars around the state, especially in the Chicago area, continue to be funded" which "suggests the state is capable of moving forward on projects it deems a priority."
Previously, Loebsack has met with representatives from the Iowa DOT about the importance of the I-74 bridge and has urged the IADOT to preserve construction funding for I-74. He has also expressed the need to replace the bridge to Secretary LaHood and Speaker of the House John Boehner, as well as urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to take action.
In 2005, the I-74 Bridge became the most traveled bridge in the Quad Cities with an average of 77,800 vehicles crossing daily. This is despite the fact that it was built for 48,000 such crossings. The Bridge itself is functionally obsolete, however, and has never met Interstate standards. In addition to improving travelers' safety, the I-74 Bridge project would spur economic growth, create construction jobs, reduce traffic backups, and improve air quality.
"These are the results we can achieve when we work together and bring attention to important issues for the Quad Cities and this development should allow Illinois to be ready to move to construction at the same time as Iowa when funding becomes available," Schilling and Loebsack said. "We will continue to work for results and make sure folks in our state capitals and Washington don't overlook the voice of our region and Congress advances on a long-term transportation bill that will help move construction forward."