Illinois will break ground on $486 million in road and bridge projects this spring, one of the largest early-season construction programs in the state's history, Gov. Pat Quinn indicated on Monday.
“When the private economy isn't going at full tilt, and it needs to get going, we've got to make sure we supplement that with our public investments,” Quinn said during an appearance in Chicago. “All of this puts people to work and lays the groundwork for future economic growth.”
Quinn said the program, which includes nearly 200 projects, will help create thousands of jobs.
The majority of projects will be funded by the state's $31 billion capital program, which derives income from legalized video gambling, in addition to recent increases liquor taxes and driver's fees. Because video gambling didn't become legal until last fall, legislators in January approved a bill allocating $1.5 billion for construction and child welfare programs.
Illinois continues to struggle with high unemployment in several sectors, including construction. Earlier this month, Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America indicated the state lost 9,800 construction jobs in January, a 5% decline in year-over-year comparisons and the largest single loss of any state in the nation.
In January, Standard & Poors cut Illinois' credit rating to A-, citing $9 billion in unpaid bills and a “poor track record” on reforming the state’s retirement system. The downgrade prompted Quinn to postpone a $500 million offer of general-obligation bonds intended for school and construction programs.
Along with California, Illinois has the lowest state grade in the nation.