Vital projects, uncertain funding vie in regional transportation plan

Mar 16, 2015

The latest long-range transportation plan for the region includes dozens of projects. But adequate funding is a constantly-looming concern:

 The Tri-County Regional Planning Commission is federally-required to craft a plan every five years.  Top projects include converting Adams and Jefferson Streets in Peoria to two-way traffic, the Veterans Drive extension in Tazewell County and recreational trail improvements. Kathryn Shackelford co-managed the long-term plan for the commission.  She says the plan presents realistic ideas with no complete funding source:

 “Adams and Jefferson and Veterans Drive combined would cost our region more than twice the money available for the six to ten year allotment.”

Shackelford says the lack of money comes from not enough new tax dollars to support growing infrastructure in communities, and dwindling motor-fuel-tax revenues. Jill Goforth also co-managed the plan. She says the long-term funding issues are reflected in the 164-page document:

 “This has to be fiscally constrained. So we have to determine what our most priority-needs are, because at the end of the day we can’t fund everything.”

 Regional projects in the next six to ten years need more than $250 million in federal funding. But Shackelford says the expected amount will only cover about 13-percent of that total cost, and many communities don’t have enough money for local matches.

 Another concern, Shackelford says it’s vital that Congress pass a new multi-year transportation bill before the stream of federal dollars runs dry at the end of May. Still, she says the Tri-County plan can help residents prioritize local projects:

 “Anyone can take this plan, read through it, and use it as a tool to influence their local political leaders, their local city councilman, county board members.”

 Shackelford says projects started within the next five years likely have secure funding streams (click image below) 

 Want to see the entire report?  A link to the Heart of Illinois Long Range Transportation Plan is available by clicking here.