Gov. JB Pritzker makes a stop in Bloomington to tout Meadows Road project
Gov. JB Pritzker was in Bloomington on Wednesday morning to announce funding to advance a $7.9 million improvement project on Meadows Road.
The governor touted the impact of his Rebuild Illinois plan, which he said has repaired and replaced more than 3,500 miles of roads and nearly 350 bridges statewide since it was signed into law nearly three years ago.
“Through our $1.5 billion program to support municipal and county projects, Rebuild Illinois has deployed $17.5 million to dozens of projects right here in McLean County alone,” Pritzker said, adding the Meadows Road project is expected to begin in mid-April and will make the road “wider and safer.”
Originally constructed in 1931, Meadows Road serves as a link between Lexington and the unincorporated community of Meadows along U.S. 24.
“It's a vital north-south thruway for central Illinois and for its economy,” said Pritzker, adding the road fosters access to multiple facilities, the Blooming Grove wind farm, and the Illinois State University Farm.
The governor was joined by Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman, McLean County Board chair John McIntyre, and state Rep. Dan Brady, whose legislative district includes Meadows Road.
“I don't think anyone in this room would not notice the condition of our roads right now,” said Brady, who thanked the governor for working with local partners on capital improvement projects. “The over $4 million that will be part from the state in this project is sorely needed to close the gap and bring this project together,” Brady said of Meadow Road.
WGLT asked the governor about the resources of the Department of Children and Family in relation to the recent case of Kimberlee Burton. Burton is the Bloomington mother charged with concealing the death of her baby, Zaraz Walker, after a history of involvement with DCFS.
The governor was not familiar with the details of Burton’s case, but said that protecting the state’s most vulnerable children had been a priority even before taking office. At the beginning of his term, Pritzker said DCFS had been “decimated” by years without a budget and “overall neglect of the agency.”
Pritzker said his administration has prioritized the retraining of DCFS after finding even employees who’d been with the agency for decades were behind on training. Speaking generally, Pritzker said sometimes children are left in the care of parents when they shouldn’t be. And as in the case of Zaraz Walker, those mistakes often come to light after it’s too late.
“Judgments need to be made by investigators and those who are front line at DCFS,” Pritzker said. “And that means you've got to hire good people, more people, and they've got to have fewer cases per caseworker. And that's what we've been doing.”
Rising gas prices
Asked about what could be done to combat increasing pain at the pump, Pritzker said it was not a problem limited to Illinois drivers.
“Global gas prices have gone through the roof. This is literally every country in the world is experiencing this, and every state in the United States,” he said.
The average cost for a gallon of gas in the U.S. is now just over $4. As part of mounting sanctions, President Biden on Tuesday announced a ban on imports of Russian oil, gas, and coal. Biden told Americans to be prepared for gas prices to rise even higher as the Russian invasion into Ukraine wears on.
Pritzker said Illinois can only hope to alleviate the pressure on the gas tax. But beyond that, there’s not much the state can do to combat the global problem. He said if there was a silver lining, it might be that more people will choose an electric vehicle when the time comes to buy a new vehicle.
“And I hope that people will purchase vehicles that are made in the state of Illinois. That certainly would benefit all of us,” Pritzker said.