Tiger III Awards: Illinois comes out on top, and here’s why…
Transportation Issues Daily released an advance list of Tiger III awards and Illinois did pretty darn good. Of the 16 leaked projects, 3 were in Illinois totalling approximately $45 million in federal dollars for important transportation projects.
Before the conspiracy theorists start bloviating about Illinois being the President’s homestate and that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is showing favoritism to the state where he was a Congressman for many years, I want to throw out a more common-sense theory for why Illinois was the recipient of these awards.
Earlier this year, US DOT hosted a number of conference calls explaining the Administration’s goals for federal transportation funding. One of the goals was to reward state and local areas that took innovative approaches to transportation funding. In my mind “innovative approaches” translates to a couple of concepts; open to new ideas and willing to put up the local dollars to invest in them. Illinois gets dinged by a lot of folks for numerous political offenses, but in the critical area of transportation investment, Illinois has been a leader in the nation and many areas in the state are also embracing new approaches to planning and transportation investment.
Normal, Illinois as evidenced in this Mitsubishi commercial (definitely worth the 30 seconds it takes to watch), is aggressively positioning itself as a multi-modal and transit oriented city of the future. Located on the Chicago to St. Louis High Speed Rail line, they are planning development around welcoming visitors, business-people and students to their city-center and offering environmentally friendly ways to get around once you are there. They were awarded a large federal grant last year to help build their multi-modal transit center. Between Illinois Capital Bill,Illinois Jobs Now, the IL Tollway’s long-term capital plan and public private partnerships like CREATE, Illinois is leading the nation compared to other states.
Our entire country still has a rough economic road to recovery and I’m glad that instead of underfunding is infrastructure in these hard times, Illinois is investing in its backbone. This helps maintain jobs in tough times and will put Illinois far ahead of its competitors as our economy recovers. I’m glad that the US DOT has recognized this and decided to reward good behavior with complimentary investments.