Pritzker announces $23.5 billion multi-year road and bridge plan as part of Rebuild Illinois


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker announced an infrastructure plan that allocates some money to Evanston.

Bennett Baker, Reporter

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Oct. 21 that the government intends to dedicate $23.5 billion over the next five years to improving the state’s network of roads and bridges, including $5.5 million for pavement rehabilitation for streets in Evanston and $5.9 million for replacement of the Central Street bridge.

Driven by the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Fiscal Year 2020-2025 Proposed Highway Improvement Program takes aim at improving and expanding 4,212 miles of road and 9.2 million square feet of bridge deck.

Also known as the Multi-Year Plan, the program is part of Illinois’ larger $45 billion Rebuild Illinois infrastructure improvement plan that was signed into law in June. Although Rebuild Illinois strives to consider the needs of each part of the state, certain communities received more investment and resources.

Based on the projects specified and budgeted in House bill 62, Senate bill 262 and the Multi-Year Plan, $19.5 million is allocated for improvements in Evanston. Of this total, $5 million is appropriated “for a grant to Northwestern University for the acquisition of science equipment,” according to the House bill.

Included is $270,000 for refurbishments to the wood doors of the Evanston History Center, the third phase of a restoration project that began in 2009. The first two phases include structural work and improvements to the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Evanston History Center director of development Jill Kirk said the third phase is the final part of the $4 million campaign to restore the house.

“To date we’ve raised about $3.65 million, so that $270,000 will go a long way toward helping us reach that goal,” Kirk said.

Madeline Norris, legislative aid to State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), said she and Gabel’s office firmly believe in the importance of investing in Evanston’s cultural and historical assets.

“I think they’re what makes Evanston unique,” Norris said. “It brings a vibrancy to our city- people want to live here, people want to work here, people want to visit. It’s what makes us who we are.”

Gabel’s top priorities also included investing in road and bridge improvements and promoting clean transportation initiatives and projects.

Norris said she and the rest of Gabel’s office are excited for the expansion of public transportation and bike lanes across the state, noting that these cleaner and healthier options can also be more cost effective than their alternatives.

Gabel’s office is particularly excited about the appropriation of funds for Foster Center Our Place, a volunteer group that maintains the old Foster School building currently housing multiple nonprofits. Foster Center Our Place has been slated to receive $1.5 million for the acquisition and renovation of the building.

“Robyn Gabel knows the importance of the vitality and the value of the assets that exist in Evanston’s fifth ward,” said Mary Collins, a Foster Center Board Member. “By supporting the redevelopment of the former Foster School into a dynamic, innovative center for nonprofits, she really signals the importance of investing in this type of project in this type of neighborhood.”

Collins said that while the money is specifically appropriated for supporting architectural and mechanical improvements to the physical building, the state’s investment is a kickstarter to a larger fundraising effort for the space.

Kirk and Collins are both grateful for Gabel’s efforts to secure the funding that will help provide an important physical space for community-based programs.

“The funding is a vote of confidence for the community and also for this terrific group of people,” Collins said.

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