03042019 Manar SIUE hearing 2

The Illinois Metro East has a tremendous need for infrastructure and construction investment by the state of Illinois, lawmakers learned Monday during a special Senate hearing in Edwardsville.

Local mayors, transportation experts and others presented a laundry list of improvement and construction projects they would like included in a new statewide infrastructure plan. Needs range from local highway and bridge repairs to improvements at Southern Illinois University and area community colleges.

The needs were articulated during the first in a series of regional hearings around the state hosted by a Senate subcommittee that is collecting data and testimony for lawmakers to consider when they put together Illinois’ next statewide construction plan. It’s been 10 years since the last plan was approved.

State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat, is chairman of one of the two Senate budget committees that will be heavily involved in crafting a construction plan. He is overseeing the regional infrastructure hearings with State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-Chicago), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

03042019 Manar SIUE hearing 3

Officials from Southern Illinois University, which has campuses in Carbondale, Edwardsville and Springfield, implored lawmakers to set aside money for deferred maintenance and construction projects, noting that “cranes on campus” sends a valuable message to communities.

Area mayors outlined road and highway improvement projects that are necessary to attract major employers that want to build or expand in the region.

And representatives of labor unions from the Metro East, southern and central Illinois described challenges they have recruiting new people and diversifying their ranks when there isn’t enough work in the state.

In 2018, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Illinois a C- grade, saying the state’s transportation infrastructure shows signs of deterioration and increasing vulnerability.

Among those who testified Monday were Randy Pembrook, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville; Dale Chapman, president of Lewis and Clark Community College; Glyn Ramage with the laborers’ union; Totsie Baily with the steamfitters’ union; Marc Kiehna, Southwest Illinois Connector Task Force chairman; Joe Silkwood, mayor of East Alton; and many others.

Senators will host at least four more hearings on the following dates:

  • 1 p.m. Monday, March 18 – Decatur Public Library, 130 N. Franklin St., Decatur
  • 3 p.m. Monday, April 8 – Bradley University, Peplow Pavilion inside the Hayden-Clark Alumni Center, 1501 W. Bradley Ave., Peoria
  • 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 16 – Bilandic Building, 160 N. LaSalle St., Chicago
  • 1 p.m. Monday, April 22 – Gail Borden Public Library, 270 N. Grove Ave., Elgin
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