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Civil Engineers Advise Infrastructure Investment In Illinois

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  Infrastructure in Illinois is getting dangerously close to disrepair, according to a report from the American Society of Civil Engineers. The state received a "C-" for its maintenance of roads, bridges and waterways.

The group says Illinois' grade is cause for concern, especially given recent infrastructure failures. Those headlines include last weekend's water crisis in Toledo, Ohio and chemical pollutants in West Virginia water earlier this year.

Congress recently put off dealing with a severely underfunded road program for another year, something Darren Olsen, with the engineer’s group, says is contrary to progress. He says governments on the state and federal level need to come up with a long term, sustainable funding source, especially given new environmental challenges.

"Call it climate change, call it global warming," he said. "We need to make sure that as we maintain and design and build these infrastructure systems that they're done in a resilient way that they can withstand weather patterns that we probably haven't seen in the past."

For example, six months after the drought of summer 2012, barges on the Mississippi River got stuck because of low winter water levels.

But any "long term, sustainable funding source" has been hard to lock down in recent years, as gridlock in

Washington blocked a solution to the road fund problem, and non-action in Springfield has made any conversation surrounding the gas tax a non-starter.

A coalition of business leaders has repeatedly proposed raising the state's gas tax, which hasn't increased in 24 years. But gas station owners and the fuel lobby argues raising the gas tax will be bad for business, especially for stations along state lines, where drivers could easily cross to buy gasoline in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa or Wisconsin.

Hannah covers state government and politics for NPR Illinois and Illinois Public Radio. She's been dedicated to the statehouse beat since interning at NPR Illinois in 2014, with subsequent stops at outlets including WILL-AM/FM, Law360, The Daily Line and a temporary stint at political blog Capitol Fax before returning to the station in 2020.
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