An Illinois budget passed by the Legislature on Thursday and waiting for Gov. Bruce Rauner's approval includes money to build one metro-east bridge and continue study and design on two more.
The $38.5 billion state spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 was approved Wednesday by the Illinois Senate and Thursday by the Illinois House. Rauner issued a statement indicating that he plans to sign it into law.
That would allocate:
▪ $36 million to replace a truss bridge between Interstates 64/55 and the Martin Luther King Bridge in East St. Louis.
▪ $2 million of a total $3 million in design costs for a proposed $223 million replacement of the Chain of Rocks Bridge, which carries traffic over the Mississippi River from Madison County to St. Louis on Interstate 270.
▪ $2 million for preliminary engineering and design on a proposed $28.5 million replacement of the Illinois 111 bridge over Interstate 64 in Washington Park to raise the clearance.
"(The King Bridge funding) would have a direct and immediate impact," said Kirk Brown, Illinois Department of Transportation program development engineer for District 8, based in Collinsville.
If the governor approves the budget, the bidding process would likely start this summer. IDOT wants to demolish the old truss bridge because of its age and condition.
"We believe that project will take two construction seasons," Brown said. "So if it starts this year, drivers could see it completed by late 2019."
The Martin Luther King Bridge will be closed during most of this time.
The Chain of Rocks Bridge replacement is a longer-term project, but it moved closer to reality this spring. For the first time, IDOT included the $220 million cost of construction and land acquisition in its five-year (2019 to 2024) highway improvement plan.
Illinois and Missouri have agreed to split the bill for the new bridge.
"There isn't money approved for construction, but it's a high priority for both of our states," Brown said.
The 5,400-foot-long Chain of Rocks Bridge was built in 1966. Today, transportation officials often refer to it as a "bottleneck," noting it wasn't designed to accommodate 51,000 vehicles a day (up from 19,800 in 1975). There are no shoulders, causing safety concerns, and maintenance costs are rising.
As lead agency on the replacement project, IDOT is nearing completion on its two-year Phase I engineering study, which considered environmental factors and community input.
Officials concluded that a new bridge should be built slightly south of the existing bridge, which would be demolished. They envision a similar design with concrete piers and steel beams supporting a concrete deck with up to six lanes.
In a press release Thursday, Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler praised Rauner for moving the new Chain of Rocks Bridge project forward. He described the existing bridge as "too narrow."
“Madison County is a nationally recognized logistics hub with Gateway Commerce Center at its core," Prenzler stated. "Trucks transport cargo across (the bridge) daily, and thousands of people commute back and forth to work. The bridge keeps the county’s logistics industry growing and continues to provide people greater opportunities for jobs.”
Interstate 270 is one of the most-traveled freight corridors in the region, according to Mary Lamie, executive director of St. Louis Regional Freightway, a Bi-State Development branch that assists manufacturing, logistics and transportation companies.
A new Chain of Rocks Bridge is high on Freightway's list of 20 priority projects. On Thursday, Lamie called IDOT's inclusion of construction costs in its five-year plan a "tremendous announcement."
"(The bridge) supports our region's supply chain," she said. "Our supply chain ultimately supports over 15,000 manufacturing and logistics companies, and these companies are competing in our global supply chain and global market."
The Illinois budget, if approved, also would allocate state money for other metro-east highway projects. Here are the big ones:
▪$10 million for maintenance and repairs to the Poplar Street Bridge.
▪ $5.9 million for resurfacing and other improvements to Illinois 13/15 near Freeburg.
▪ $4.4 million for resurfacing and other improvements to Illinois 3 near Ruma.
▪ $2.5 million for dredging and retaining walls near the Kampsville and Brussels ferries.
▪ $2.4 million for Illinois 3 reconstruction at Pontoon Road in Granite City.
▪ $2.4 million for resurfacing and other improvements to Illinois 16/100 near Hardin.
▪ $2.2 million for resurfacing and other improvements to Illinois 160 near Trenton.
▪ $1.5 million for resurfacing on Illinois 160 between New Baden and New Memphis.
▪ $1 million for bridge replacement on Illinois 157 at Silver Creek near Hamel.
▪ $1 million in resurfacing and other improvements to Illinois 162 in Troy.
Votes on the Illinois budget legislation were 54-2 in the Senate and 97-18 in the House.
"We worked together to provide a budget to the people of Illinois that can be balanced, with hard work and continued bipartisan effort to deliver on the promises it makes," Rauner said in his statement. "I’ll be taking action quickly to enact the Fiscal Year 19 budget into law.”