* Clare Spaulding at the Tribune…
The number of Illinois bridges in poor condition has increased over the last four years and a quarter of the state’s water lines are tainted by lead, according to the latest infrastructure report card from the Illinois Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
But despite the state’s third consecutive below-average overall grade of C-minus in the quadrennial report, massive investments from the state and federal governments led the authors to conclude that “fortunately, the future is bright.” […]
Across 11 infrastructure categories, the state maintained or improved its ranking in all but one category, its drinking water score, which fell to a poor rating.
* More from Greg Hinz…
But the state’s overall rating remained at C- because the group added a new category on which Illinois fared very low—handling of stormwater, rated D.
“Prioritizing additional funding for aging stormwater infrastructure is needed to keep up with increasing rainfall trends from climate change,” Walton said.
Related drinking water infrastructure also is aging faster than it’s being fixed, the group said, a reason why the state’s grade for drinking water slipped from C- to D+.
The report noted that Illinois has one of the largest shares of lead pipes in the country. “While efforts from Congress and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency are addressing those service lines to protect residents, grant programs must be accelerated to improve conditions at a faster pace.”
The report card is here. The full study is here.
* From the press release…
The state has continued to prioritize critical investments for the sectors that move goods and services; Aviation (C+), Inland Waterways (D), Ports (C-) and Rail (C+). The results of this could not be clearer as all these categories were able to maintain and, in some cases, improve their grades since 2018.
Illinois’ communities and water agencies are making progress, but the state continues to have one of the largest shares of lead service pipelines in the nation, impacting residents who rely on these systems for clean drinking water. Out of 4 million total service lines, over 675,000 have been identified as lead and almost 380,000 as copper with lead solder services. While efforts from Congress and the Illinois EPA are addressing these service lines to protect residents, grant programs must be accelerated to improve conditions at a faster pace. Illinois’ aging drinking water infrastructure is leading to leaking pipelines, costing taxpayers money and critical resources. In 2017, a total of 106 million gallons per day (MGD) were lost amongst Lake Michigan allocation permittees, or 13% of total water supplied. Additional funding is also needed for aging stormwater infrastructure that must keep up with increasing rainfall trends from climate change.
Transit and roads both receiving a “D+” were able to show notable increases. These systems have stabilized and begun to improve thanks in large part to Rebuild Illinois, despite most of the funding not taking effect yet. The percentage of state-maintained highways in excellent condition grew 5.2% in 2020 when compared to 2019. In 2021, the state raised its gas tax to 39.2 cents per gallon and its diesel tax to 46.7 cents per gallon, which will contribute to future growth. Through the federal bill and Rebuild Illinois, operating budgets for transit systems are also expanding. For example, in 2022, Metra (commuter trains) is budgeting operating expenses of $900 million, which is $100 million or 12.5% higher than in 2021. 101 out of Illinois’ 102 counties offer transit service, and 57 public transit operators and providers supported an estimated 600 million trips in 2019, the second largest public transportation system in the U.S.
The report card says the state needs to spend $2 billion to repair and modernize the transit system.
Governor JB Pritzker today joined leaders from the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) at an event announcing a $33.5 million investment at four universities, bringing the total investment in deferred maintenance projects for higher education institutions across the state to $434 million. These new projects will take place at UIC, Western Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA) is announcing the issuance of $182,222,203 in water infrastructure loans to local governments and sanitary districts for the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2022 (January - March 2022). The Illinois EPA State Revolving Fund (SRF) Program provides low-interest loans, which fund wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water projects. Twenty (20) of the thirty-three (33) loans qualified for a total of $8,571,149.62 in Disadvantaged Community Principal Forgiveness, providing additional benefits to those recipients meeting the loan rules for either the Small Community Rate or Hardship Rate. These projects are in addition to more than $9.6 million of funding and principal forgiveness already announced for lead service line replacement projects issued by Illinois EPA in the third quarter.
* Not strictly infrastructure-related, but worth including…
Higher education leaders across the state are celebrating the comprehensive FY 2023 state budget recently passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed by Governor JB Pritzker on April 19, which includes a historic higher education budget of $2.24 billion - representing a $248.5 million increase from last year and the largest increase in over 20 years.
*** UPDATE *** CBS 2…
Chicago has the most lead service pipes of any city in the country — which means this freshwater isn’t always “fresh” by the time it gets to your house.
The Metropolitan Planning Council says Illinois isn’t getting its fair share of federal funds to fix it. […]
Justin Williams with the Metropolitan Planning Council explained that Illinois is set to receive $565 million out of the $15 billion worth of federal funding allocated to lead service line replacement.
But based on the percentage of the lead pipes in the nation, Illinois’ share should be more like $1.8 billion. […]
He says that’s because the U.S. EPA is going by old data.
In 2022, the federal government is updating the formula by which they determine each state’s allotment to include lead pipe replacement costs.
And he says that survey can’t come soon enough.