2012 in transportation: Progress for roads, rail, air travel - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

2012 in transportation: Progress for roads, rail, air travel

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Illinois Department of Transportation secretary Ann Schneider makes remarks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Macomb bypass project just off Ill. 336 in Macomb. (H-W File Photo) Illinois Department of Transportation secretary Ann Schneider makes remarks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Macomb bypass project just off Ill. 336 in Macomb. (H-W File Photo)
TSA agent Susan Schoenekase, right, checks identification and tickets as passengers walk through the security checkpoint at Quincy Regional Airport. The airport was expected to surpass the 10,000 annual boarding mark in 2012. (H-W File Photo) TSA agent Susan Schoenekase, right, checks identification and tickets as passengers walk through the security checkpoint at Quincy Regional Airport. The airport was expected to surpass the 10,000 annual boarding mark in 2012. (H-W File Photo)
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood

By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer

The Macomb bypass could be completed as a two-lane highway by 2015 or 2016, completing the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway. Regional transportation supporters reached an agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation to go forward with two-lane construction if the region can identify the $32.5 million needed for paving. Road work can be launched much sooner than would be possible if the state had to have the full $80 million needed for four-lane construction. IDOT has pledged to complete the bypass as a four-lane divided highway when funds are available. The bypass is the final link in the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway, a 532-mile expressway between Chicago and Kansas City.

Members of the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission voted unanimously during their January meeting to put up C-KC signs along U.S. 36 and U.S. 35 to mark the Chicago-Kansas City Expressway. An estimated 2,387 C-KC logos and Route 110 markers were approved as a means of notifying travelers about the 532-mile route between the two cities. Transportation Commission member Stephen Miller of Kansas City, said the C-KC was little known in the Kansas City area and he welcomed the promotion of the "one of the prettiest roads in the state" as well as a route that avoids the congestion of St. Louis, Interstate 70 and other metropolitan areas.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider announced a six-year $9.25 billion highway plan in April. The plan was smaller than the $12.84 billion plan from 2010 due to a capital construction program in the previous year.

Missouri Department of Transportation Director Kevin Keith said in early May that statewide spending has dropped to about $700 million a year, from $1.2 billion just a few years ago. "We are focused on keeping the transportation system in as good a condition as we can, for as long as we can, with the resources we have," Keith said. Northeast Missouri received $29 million for road and bridge projects.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said "gotcha politics" has been standing in the way of a new transportation bill. "Things are a little broken in Washington," LaHood said during a speech in Macomb in late April. LaHood delivered Western Illinois University's annual Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture to focus on the need for the Macomb bypass, a federal transportation bill, continued Amtrak service and other transporation options. After 14 years in Congress, LaHood said he was pleased to see the area once known as "Forgottonia" with good roads, improved passenger rail and airports.

Palmyra, Mo., got a $1.2 million upgrade where three streets intersect U.S. 61. The work was needed to improve safety after a number of fatalities and serious crashes. Palmyra Mayor Loren Graham welcomed the new configurations at Main Cross, Ross and Thompson streets, while noting the work is "maybe a 10- to 15-year fix." An overpass would be the preferred solution for Palmyra's connections with the heavily traveled Avenue of the Saints, but the state does not have the money for an overpass.

State and national officials outlined the four Rs — roads, rails, rivers and runways — during a transportation summit in Macomb during August. Doug Whitley, president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce and co-chairman of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition, said transportation is a critical component in order to "get our economy on track." Directors of the Tri-State Development Summit were in attendance to support efforts in Western Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa.

Illinois lawmakers approved a $1.6 billion bonding authority bill to keep road, bridge, train and transit programs moving forward during the final day of the session. Schneider testified about the importance of an annual reappropriation of Illinois Jobs Now! bonding authority. Whitley helped convince lawmakers as well. The capital bill approved in 2009 has been getting annual infusions of cash through bonding as revenue sources such as video poker have geared up.

Quincy Regional Airport was expected to surpass the 10,000 annual boarding mark for the first time since 2002, qualifying the airport for $1 million in federal grant money. Cape Air helped boost ridership starting in October with $39 tickets on some flights and an improved flight schedule that included a 6 a.m. departure from Quincy and an arriving plane in the evenings.

Amtrak reported record numbers of passengers for the year at both the national and regional levels. Along the Quincy-Chicago route the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg trains had 232,592 passengers, up 3.9 percent from the previous year. Ticket revenue along the corridor rose $107,000 or 1.9 percent. Nationally, there were 31.2 million passengers in the 12 months preceding Sept. 30. Train ridership is up 49 percent from 2000.

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