Manzullo Outraged at Blagljevich’s Stripping of Money from Western Bypass

Yesterday I wrote my take on Congressman Don Manzullo’s press conference.

The officials to the left chose to stand behind him. (Several others whom I recognized and reported on yesterday watched from the audience.)

This is the press release that was handed out:

Manzullo, Area Officials Urge Governor to Restore State Funds, Build Algonquin’s Western Bypass

[ALGONQUIN] Outraged by the state’s decision to yank funding from a federally endorsed road project, Congressman Don Manzullo (R-Egan) today urged Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to restore all the money eliminated from the Algonquin Western Bypass project and build the vital road project as soon as possible.

Joined by State Senator Pam Althoff, State Rep. Mike Tryon, McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler and nearly a dozen area mayors, Manzullo said the State of Illinois must start giving McHenry County its fair share of federal and state road dollars.

“This is the last straw,” Manzullo said. “For years, the State of Illinois has ignored McHenry County’s road needs despite the fact that this is one of the most congested counties in the state. While the United States Congress has twice invested in this vital Western Bypass project, the state has now pulled all the state funding and shelved it indefinitely. This is outrageous.”

In 1998, Manzullo secured $9 million in federal funding and designated the Western Bypass as a “High Priority Project” in the federal transportation bill. The State of Illinois followed his lead and added the Western Bypass to the state transportation plan in 1999. At that time, the state allocated $35 million in state funds (under the Illinois First program) to the project, bringing total funding to $44 million – which was enough to build the road at that time.

Over the last several years, the state has consistently scaled back its funding support for the Western Bypass, even though the federal government continued to make it a priority. In addition to the $9 million federal earmark in 1998, Congressman Manzullo and U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) secured another $10 million for a northern extension of the project in 2005. In addition, Congress gave Illinois another $6.2 billion in federal gas tax receipts to use at the state’s discretion to fix Illinois roads. Despite this significant federal commitment, the Illinois Department of Transportation eliminated the remaining state funding for the Western Bypass project in this year’s state road plan.

In a letter sent to the Governor today, Manzullo and the other local officials called on Blagojevich to restore all the state funding for the project and add whatever is necessary – using some of the federal gas tax monies and the $22 million McHenry County motorists pay annually in state gasoline taxes – to build the Western Bypass. McHenry County officials estimate the cost of the Western Bypass, without the northern extension, at about $67 million. In addition, the letter invites the Governor to come to McHenry County to sit down with area officials and discuss the county’s transportation needs.

Congressman Manzullo’s remarks can be found below.

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