MARION -- Gov. J.B. Pritzker received a thunderous ovation from more than 300 area residents as he entered the training center of Laborers Local 773 in Marion Tuesday afternoon.
With union workers and politicians from both sides of the political aisle standing behind him, all sweltering from the lack of air conditioning in the facility, Pritzker laid out the highlights of his $45 billion capital improvement program now dubbed "Rebuild Illinois."
The program, more so than anything else, will address infrastructure needs statewide. Altogether, more than $33 billion of the total $45 billion will be invested in transportation needs.
"This is a job creation plan the like of which this state has never seen before. Tens of thousands of jobs are being created as the result of this capital bill," Pritzker said. "And not just in the building of new highways and repaving of highways, or replacing pieces of bridges that have been falling down for decades now, but also in the new businesses that will be attracted to the really great infrastructure that we're creating.
"Businesses want to go where there are good airports, good roads and good bridges," Pritzker said. "They want to know that they can open a distribution center and have trucks that can get in and out easily. So, what I've tried to do is to make sure that we are not only upgrading our roads across the state, but also to fund local governments and the state government so that we can consistently invest in our roads and bridges. That's the way you attract businesses here."
Pritzker also pointed to the value of implementing high-speed internet.
"How important is that in your business? How important is it to virtually every business now? You almost can't run a business anymore without high-speed internet," the governor said. "And you certainly can't attract a big company that might bring hundreds or even thousands of jobs to Southern Illinois unless we have high-speed internet everywhere. I want people to be able to start up small businesses and succeed and I want to attract businesses to this region from outside."
Pritzker said additional funding for higher education was also a must.
"The funding for universities and community colleges has gotten so low that they are barely at maintenance (levels), so again, we need to reinvigorate our educational institutions," he said. "We did it in our budget and now we're doing it in the capital bill, too."
State Sen. Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) said the capital bill is "an opportunity for our citizens -- for young families (in particular) to have a better place to live."
Fowler also spoke of the importance of investing money in ports of interest such as Cairo, which fields such heavy barge traffic at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
State Rep. Dave Severin (R-Benton) said he appreciates the fact that Pritzker has spent time in Southern Illinois and is making a concerted effort to improve the living conditions for residents here.
"It's one thing to appreciate the need we have and yet another to put that need into action," he said, referencing the capital bill.
Here's how the capital bill will affect southern Illinois:
• I-57: $193 million for additional lanes and bridge replacements along critical freight corridor from south of Illinois 149 in Franklin County to the I-64 south TriLevel interchange in Mount Vernon.
• Passenger rail: $100 million to improve safety and reliability of Amtrak's Saluki service between Chicago and Carbondale.
• I-24: $77.9 million to resurface 39 miles from I-57 in Williamson County to the Ohio River in Massac County. Project includes bridge replacement 4 miles south of the Johnson County line.
• I-64: $42 million for reconstruction and bridge deck improvements from the Washington County line to I-57 in Jefferson County.
• Illinois 37: $17.8 million to resurface and add shoulders along 7.8 miles to improve safety from Wildcat Drive to Illinois 148 in Marion.
• Illinois 127/13: $3.7 million to resurface 8 miles from the Perry County line to 2 miles north of Ava Road in Murphysboro.
• U.S. 51: $3.6 million to resurface 10 miles from Hallidayboro Road south of Elkville to Industrial Park Road in Carbondale.
• $83 million for a communications building at SIU-C.
• $3.8 million for the west lobby expansion at John A. Logan Community College.
• $2.7 million for the Kaskaskia River pump station.
• $5 million for capital improvements at Illinois Eastern Community College's Olney and Frontier campuses.