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The State Journal-Register: Vote 'yes' on roads amendment

By: Secretary Ray LaHood and Governor Ed Rendell 


Across Illinois, many commuters face a daily slog getting to the office and the kids to school, from traffic jams and crowded buses or trains to roads filled with potholes or constantly in need of repair. It can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, as Illinoisans spend more than $800 per commute each year in wasted time and fuel for the costs of growing disrepair.

Insufficient and unreliable funding at all levels of government have contributed to this growing problem.

Fortunately, there is something that you can do about it. In November, voters will have a rare opportunity to cast their ballots to protect public safety, while at the same time creating jobs and investing in a more stable, prosperous future for Illinois.

All it will take is a single "yes" vote on the first question on the ballot — the "Safe Roads" amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

The first step toward that future requires that existing resources already promised to infrastructure actually be spent on infrastructure. That is common sense. Yet, in Illinois that has been a broken promise. For years, political leaders in Illinois have diverted money from the state's Road Fund and other transportation funds. One recent study pegged the number at more than $6.8 billion over the last 13 years.

One result is that, today, half of Illinois roads and 4,200 of Illinois bridges are in poor condition. Raiding transportation funding has cost Illinois nearly 5,000 jobs and $3.2 billion in lost economic output over the last decade. In contrast, building good infrastructure creates jobs. For every $1 billion invested in transportation, 13,000 jobs are created and sustained.

As co-chairs of Building America's Future, we have been travelling the country talking about the importance of smart and strategic investments in our nation's infrastructure. Communities big and small are all facing the same challenges of a transportation network that has not kept pace with the demands of the 21st century. More and more of these communities have grown weary of government inaction and have overwhelmingly approved ballot measures in recent years that sought to increase revenue for transportation or have protected these revenues from being diverted to other programs. Illinois voters will soon get the opportunity to protect your transportation dollars with the Safe Roads Amendment.

Building America's Future has, from its beginning, been a bipartisan coalition of elected officials working across party lines to bring about a new era of U.S. investment in infrastructure that enhances our nation's prosperity and quality of life. The Safe Roads amendment also reflects that bipartisan spirit, having been placed on the ballot with the overwhelming support of Republicans and Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly.

If you believe in transparency and accountability, then the Safe Roads Amendment should have your support. There really is light at the end of the tunnel.

— Ray LaHood is the former U.S. Transportation Secretary and Ed Rendell is the former Pennsylvania Governor. Both are co-chairs of Building America's Future.