Illinois borrows $550 million, may not keep construction going

Drivers hitting the road this summer can expect to see crews out repairing roads. But you may soon stop seeing workers out making improvements unless lawmakers appropriate the funding for the projects.

Road construction projects around Illinois will come to a halt on July 1 unless state lawmakers appropriate money for it.

E.T. Simonds Construction Operations Manager Steve Ash says heavy rains have delayed crews all spring, but a shutdown would be devastating.

"All the contractors are behind because of the rain, and it finally comes out and we face this situation," Ash said. He says his 287 employees could soon be out of jobs, and that doesn’t even take in to account the contract workers the company partners with to get supplies. He says a shutdown will have a trickle down effect immediately on communities.

"It’s extremely frustrating, and it’s a very sad situation that we’re in," Ash said.

Ash says if they have to halt construction, it’s not just going to be the workers who can’t come in that are going to be affected. But he says big state road construction projects like the one on Highway 13 could be seriously delayed.

The Illinois Department of Transportation says a shutdown will impact an estimated 25,000 workers in 800 projects, totaling $2 billion. The state borrowed $550 million Thursday in an effort to keep projects going. But now, everyone’s looking to lawmakers to see if they’ll appropriate the money toward the projects.

"I’m very hopeful. I think they can do it. It’s their job to do it," Ash said.

State Rep. John Bradley says there’s money in the road fund, but it can’t be spent until lawmakers appropriate it. He says a shutdown would devastate southern Illinois, and it would hurt the economy in the area and around the state. He says he’ll be voting to keep construction going, and he hopes other lawmakers will too.

Illinois has run without a state budget since July 1, 2015. 

In order to keep construction projects going beyond July 30, lawmakers must agree to appropriate the funding from the $550 million bond sale, pass a state budget or pass stopgap funding for the project.

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