Chicago, Illinois IDOT roadwork threatened by budget – Government News

on Jun17

16 June 2017 | 5:58 pm

When Department of Transportation officials announced yesterday that state roadwork can’t continue without a state budget, Rich Rivera didn’t feel surprised. He felt anxious.

“They’re the only game in town,” the president of Chicago-based R & G Engineering says. “Who owns the roads and bridges? It’s the state.”

Rivera says half his current business depends on state projects. Ten of his engineering contractors—he has a total of 20 workers—will be furloughed if lawmakers fail to pass a budget by June 30. If the impasse continues long enough, these engineers will lose their jobs, and Rivera will lose the line of credit he depends on to fund future projects. For him, there’s only one thing left to do:

“Get into the private sector and do some utility work that is not dependent on state resources,” he says. Rivera has been working to expand his business to private customers he knows will pay.

30,000 WORKERS

The Illinois Road & Transportation Builders Association, a trade group, estimates statewide construction closures will affect an estimated 30,000 workers, and maintaining the shuttered sites will cost the state more than $3 million a day.

The looming shutdown would impact more than 700 projects throughout the state worth a collective $2.3 billion, according to an IDOT spokesman.

Find a list of threatened road work projects here.

That includes reconstructive work on Interstate 55 at South Lake Shore Drive, a project R&G has been working on that was due to be completed this fall. Now Rivera says he has no idea when it will be done. On June 30, R&G engineers will put up traffic cones, close lanes and make sure the vacated construction site is safe enough for motorists to navigate around.

Contractors are responsible for securing closed sites in the short term: setting up safety and traffic measures; providing erosion and sediment control and environmental stabilization; relocating idled equipment, and removing all construction debris. IDOT officials did not respond to requests for comment about who would provide long-term maintenance on these unfinished work zones.

BUILDING IN RISK

“Going forward, if this kind of thing is going to happen, contractors are going to have start building into the bid process the risk of starting and stopping, and hiring people they’re not going to be able to keep,” says Marty Ozinga, president of Ozinga Bros., a family-run cement and construction materials supplier based in Evergreen Park.

Like Rivera, Ozinga’s concerned about the more than 100 new contractors he hired this spring. “The construction industry in Chicago is particularly seasonal,” he says. “You bank on a tight window to make your money, and for the people to make their money.”

Ozinga declines to comment on specific state projects he’s working on, but says about 20 percent of his business supplies public Illinois projects. If a budget isn’t passed, his 100 new contractors aren’t going to get the hours they need to make a decent living.

“People’s livelihoods are at stake,” he says.

Lawmakers left Springfield June 1 without passing a budget, but Illinois House and Senate Republicans reported yesterday that they’re filing a compromise budget that would have the support of Gov. Rauner. Democratic leaders said they would look over the bill when it’s filed.

Last year, lawmakers passed a stopgap budget on the final day of the fiscal year that funded state construction projects.

“It is our hope legislators can come together once again and find a solution to keep projects going . . . finding a way forward will also have the benefit of avoiding sticking taxpayers with the added, unnecessary costs that would be required to stabilize projects in the event of a shutdown,” David Rock, chairman of the board at the Road & Transportation Builders Association, said in an emailed statement to Crain’s.



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