ELECTION 2014: Illinois gubernatorial candidates give insight on transportation

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Thursday, October 23, 2014

In less than two weeks voters in Illinois will fill out ballots for candidates vying for offices that stretch from Washington, DC, to around the block.

One of the offices on Illinois’ ballot is for the governor’s seat. Gov. Pat Quinn is on the ballot for the second time. He initially assumed the office in 2009 when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached. A year later, Quinn was elected to a full term. He is now seeking a second term at the helm.

His opponent is Republican businessman Bruce Rauner.

Quinn has taken action on multiple notable issues during his five years on the job. One issue he has addressed more than once while in office is uniform speed limits.

Shortly after Quinn assumed his current position he grabbed the attention of truckers when he eliminated split speed limits on rural interstates. While maintaining the status quo of speed differentials in the “collar counties” surrounding Chicago, he listened to lawmakers and truckers who spent years pushing for uniform speeds elsewhere.

In 2011, he put his signature on a bill to authorize uniform speeds on U.S. and state highways outside of Chicago and the surrounding area. And one year ago he signed off on a speed increase from 65 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles on rural four-lane highways and most portions of the Illinois Tollway.

“This limited 5-mph increase will bring Illinois’ rural interstate speed limits in line with our neighbors and the majority of states across America,” Quinn said in prepared remarks at the time.

However, this summer he reversed course on uniform speeds.

The governor nixed an effort to reduce the speed differential on certain Chicago-area roadways. He cited concerns about allowing large trucks to drive faster.

Since Jan. 1, the speed limit on rural interstate highways in Cook and the collar counties surrounding Chicago is 70 mph for cars and 55 mph for trucks. Previously, car speeds were set at 65 mph.

The governor vetoed a bill on Aug. 11 that called for allowing trucks on affected roadways to drive 60 mph.

“Increased speeds on urban interstate highways for trucks will result in the increased loss of human life,” Quinn wrote in a veto message to lawmakers. He said speed also exacerbates the size and weight differences between large trucks and passenger vehicles, leading to more severe crashes.

Another issue addressed during Quinn’s administration is the use of private companies to get new roads built.

In 2010, he signed legislation permitting the state to partner with private groups to develop, build and manage the Illiana Expressway.

Rauner has referred to the Illiana project as “an important economic development engine” for Will County and the surrounding area. However, he emphasizes the importance of making sure any potential public-private partnership “doesn’t leave taxpayers holding the bag.”

In 2011, Quinn opened the door to allowing the state to form partnerships with private groups to get more road work done. It includes some state oversight of any lease deals. For example, state lawmakers are required to approve all potential public-private partnerships.

And last month he signed a $1.1 billion capital construction bill that authorizes selling bonds to pay for road and bridge work throughout the state. A total of 210 projects are identified as benefiting from the deal.

“We are the heart of the heartland,” Quinn stated. “It’s important to the whole country that we make investments into improving our roads and bridges and relieving congestion all across this state.”

During the campaign, Rauner has said the state should avoid tapping residents for more fees, more taxes or more tolls without first cutting the government’s wasteful spending and corruption.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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