Everything wears out eventually, and streets, sewers and abridges are no exception.
Why are they allowed to fall into disrepair? Well, because no one really sees them, especially when it comes to sewers. And, since public dollars go into the care and maintenance of streets, sewers and bridges, politicians are reluctant to expend such funds unless they absolutely have to, because there are more showy expenditures which can generate ribbon cuttings and the always desired photo opportunities.
At least 20 some years ago, while seeking funding for much-needed repairs, when I went into the sewers under Ogden Avenue. I was mortified to note that I could see sunlight coming through the street and into the sewer. While, for $13 million, we were able to fix some blocks of Brookfield and LaGrange Park sewers, it surely did not go the length of Ogden Avenue nor cover others streets which probably sewers of the same vintage.
These sewers, whose life span is about 40 years, are way overdue for repair. To their credit, municipalities do the best they can with limited resources, but the state, as usual, shirks its duties. Who knows how many deficient sewers are out there? I guess we won’t know until they collapse.
Have you noticed the streets of late as well? I just hold my breath when traveling the south lane of 31st Street by the Brookfield Zoo, since for blocks one shakes, rattles and rolls. And, how about Desplaines Avenue in North Riverside south of 26th Street?
I am sure we could all come up with examples axle-challenging streets. But, the state administration continues to raid the road fund for other spending purposes, thus putting street repair off for another day.
I have not gone around looking at bridges lately, so have no idea if our bridges are in good repair or not. But, it does not take long when riding the expressways or the “L” to see fissures in the overpasses. They may not be big enough to take out the overpass, but in light of what just happened in Minnesota, we ought to be checking the bridges on a regular basis to make sure that they are safe for the weight they carry.
So, if public works projects are a vital part of the state’s work, why are we in arrears? There are many reasons. We have already cited the depleted road fund, to which we all contribute our tax dollars. But, the state has not had a capital program for streets, sewers and bridges since Illinois First monies ran out shortly after the administration of Gov. George Ryan.
Capital bills have been proposed but go nowhere, because it gets right down to the fact that neither political party in Springfield trusts the governor enough to give him a pot of money to do public works. They want some kind of assurance that the monies will go for public works, and then go for public works where there is a need and not where there is a campaign contributor or trade off for a vote to some legislative favorite.
As long as such distrust exists, monies will not be forthcoming for all the repairs which are out there. Legislators have sought to tie their various projects to the recently passed state budget, still sitting on the governor’s desk, unsigned. The House Republicans and Democrats and Senate Republicans line-itemed their projects so everyone could see what they were and could judge their worth.
Senate Democrats chose to give an undifferentiated lump sum to their leader, Senate President Emil Jones, to dole out as he saw fit. The Governor called these projects “pork” and disparaged them in his continued and failed efforts to create a version of national health insurance for Illinois, which the debt-ridden state can ill afford and which legislators have consistently opposed.
The longer we put off repairs to roads, sewers and bridges, the worse the situation becomes, the more dangers the public faces. Since public transportation has also been left dangling in legislative winds, it will not be an alternative. The longer we go without repairs, the more repairs will become expensive replacements.
After the longest and most expensive time-wasting legislative session in the history of the state, as generated by a snit-driven governor, there is still no capital bill in the offing, with public transportation facing huge service cuts which will affect everyone.
Do you ever wonder why taxpayers get frustrated?