Congressman Don Manzullo’s Prepared Remarks for Press Conference Decrying Rod Blagojevich Draining McHenry County Road Money Earmarked for Western Byp

McHenry County Blog published an article on the press conference yesterday and Congressman Don Manzullo’s press release separately today.

What follows are his prepared remarks:

Remarks of Congressman Don Manzullo
Western Bypass News Conference

Good morning. Today, I am joined by State Senator Pam Althoff, State Representative Mike Tryon, McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler and many of our mayors to discuss an issue that is very important to us and the people of McHenry County–the Western Bypass project of Algonquin.

For many years, the intersection of Routes 31 and 62 behind us has been one of the most congested intersections in the state. For decades, the people of the region debated ways to reduce the mile-long backups that plague this intersection every day.

In the mid 1990’s, the people of McHenry County determined that the answer to southeastern McHenry County’s gridlock was the Western Bypass of Algonquin. In 1998, I was able to secure $9 million in the federal transportation bill for the Western Bypass.

A year later, the State of Illinois kicked in $35 million more and added the Western Bypass to its 5-year road program. At that point, there was enough money committed to build the road, which would start at Route 31 near Virginia Road in Crystal Lake, veer southwest into the gravel pit, cross Algonquin Road near the Algonquin post office, veer southeast and connect back with Route 31 near Huntington Drive.

Over the last several years, many obstacles lengthened the engineering process and the state 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 I secured in 1998, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Barack Obama (D-IL) in 2005 joined me in securing another $10 million for a northern extension of the project, which would include widening Route 31 from the northern point of the bypass to Rakow Road. In addition, Congress gave Illinois another $6.2 billion in federal gas tax receipts in 2005 – a record 30 percent increase over the last federal transportation bill — 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.

This is the last straw. 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.

I called this news conference today to put a spotlight on this gross injustice to the people of McHenry County. The officials who have joined me today all co-signed a letter that we sent to the Governor today.

In that letter, we called on Governor Blagojevich to restore all the state funding he eliminated from this project and add whatever money 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.

Our letter also invites the Governor to come to McHenry County to sit down with area officials and discuss the county’s transportation needs. It is time for McHenry County to start receiving its fair share of transportation dollars from the state.

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On top Congressman Don Manzullo gets works up his anger at Governor Rod Blagojevich’s administration’s deletion of all state funds, plus $10 million in federally earmarked funds from the Western Bypass road project. Will Shultz, who helped beat back McHenry County politicians and the Northwest Herald’s attempt to gain approval for the Northern Bypass proposal can be seen in the background.

Next is State Rep. Mike Tyron answering a question after the press conference. McHenry County Board member Dan Shea (R-Fox River Grove) is behind Tyron.

While speaking at the press conference, McHenry County Board Chairman Ken Koehler says something that makes Manzullo and State Senator Pam Althoff smile.

The bottom photograph shows Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud pointing his thumb at the intersection of Routes 31 and 62, while Manzullo looks on. Manzullo looks contemplative. Abboud has discussed running against Manzullo for Congress next year to the Rockford Register-Star and the Daily Herald‘s political editors.

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