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July 29, 2008

Governor Blagojevich recognizes anniversary of Minnesota bridge collapse
Governor applauds IDOT for diligence in keeping Illinoisans safe; emphasizes need for capital plan to address infrastructure needs

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that Illinois’ bridges are ranked 6th in the nation in terms of sufficiency, but stressed more needs to be done to ensure that they remain safe. The announcement comes the week of the August 1st anniversary of the Minneapolis I-35W bridge tragedy and with the release of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) report, Bridging the Gap: Restoring and Rebuilding the Nation’s Bridges, outlining the critical challenges ahead.
“We want to take the time to remember a tragedy that affected so many families in that area, and the nation as a whole,” said Governor Blagojevich. “I commend employees at the Illinois Department of Transportation for ensuring our bridges are safe.  At the same time, I strongly urge the General Assembly to pass a capital bill which will help ensure that these bridges are safe, in the years ahead.”
The IDOT bridge inspection team, which is responsible for overseeing more than 8,000 bridges in Illinois, has worked diligently using high-tech equipment to examine critical spans, including those crossing the Mississippi River and other major waterways.  Visual inspectors look for general structure alignment and anything out of the ordinary.  The detailed inspections assess beam deterioration, determine the condition of the connections, identify cracks, and check the alignment.
Illinois serves as the country’s transportation hub and has some of the highest number of truckers traveling across the state.  The amount of heavy truck traffic has weighed on Illinois bridges and roads, which is a prime example of the need for the passage of Illinois Works.  The proposed capital bill would allow investments in Illinois bridges and roads – providing the vital resources needed to improve and maintain the infrastructure of our state.
Approximately 75 percent of state highways in Illinois are more than 40 years old and are near the end of their original design life.  Meanwhile, passenger and freight trains crawl along at a fraction of their potential speed, because track repairs are unable to be made.
Illinois Works is designed to make the necessary investments in our bridges, roads, airports, transit systems, and schools.  In addition to repairing and rebuilding our infrastructure, Illinois Works will also create 600,000 jobs and stimulate the state’s economy.
IDOT Secretary Milton R. Sees responded to today’s nationwide release of the AASHTO report on the condition of America’s 600,000 bridges.  The report underscores the safety of U.S. bridges, but finds that one out of every four needs to be modernized or repaired, despite the best efforts of state transportation officials. AASHTO reports it could cost $140 billion (in 2006 dollars) to immediately make all of the needed repairs or upgrades.
"IDOT’s number one priority is the safety of our bridges and roads,” said Secretary Sees.  “We are pleased to be ranked 6th in the nation.  Our bridge inspectors are in the field every day to assure the safety of nearly 8,000 bridges across the state.  Passing a capital construction program will help us maintain and improve upon this ranking.”"
Among the AASHTO bridge report’s key findings:
·                    Age – Usually built to last 50 years, the average bridge age in this country today is 43, with one in five bridges more than 50 years old.  As age and traffic increase, so does the need for repair.
·                    Price Tag – Based upon data from the Federal Highway Administration, the cost to repair or modernize the country’s bridges is $140 billion, assuming all of the bridges were fixed immediately. 
·                    Traffic Congestion – Many of the nation’s large-scale bridges have become chokepoints on the country’s freeway system, and a drain on the nation’s economy. The top 10 highway interchange bottlenecks cause an average of 1.5 million truck hours of delay every year.  
·                    Soaring Construction Costs – The costs of steel, asphalt, concrete, and earthwork have risen by at least 50 percent in the past five years, forcing delays of bridge improvements and replacements.  Nearly every state faces funding shortages that prevent them from the kind of ongoing preventive maintenance, repair and replacement needed to keep their bridges sound indefinitely.
For more information on the AAHSTO report, visit www.dot.il.gov.


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