The Belmont Underpass Odyssey Continues

Looks like 2008 has slipped away as the year the Belmont Underpass gets done started. Despite an intense and coordinated effort by Mayor Sandack and council, hired lobbyists, and staff this year, the Illinois legislature finished up its regular session without passing Illinois Works, an increasingly controversial capital projects bill that would solve many old and festering problems, let us finally get our BU…and create new problems for the state on the process.

Illinois works is an ambitious plan quoting, variously, $25 billion, $31 billion, and $34 billion as the amount to be spent. DG had hoped to get $8.5 million in there to get the BU underway. If it slips the entire year, next year $8.5M probably won’t get it done either.

How Illinois Works will be funded has become something of a battlefield as revenue sources are firmed up, and projects are being named and slotted in.

Revenue sources are basically:

  • The Feds. $9.3 billion is Illinois’ for the taking. Illinois probably will not, at least this year.
  • Gas tax revenues. Taxes on motor fuel, and on motor fuel sales. Now, it sounds like they are simply moving money around in the budget, but it’s not.
  • Gambling revenues Latest news is Chicago gets a land based casino, maybe Rosemont too, and another riverboat somewhere, but not within 15 miles of an existing boat. Gambling and gambling revenue is good, right? We need more gambling revenue.
  • Selling future lottery gambling revenue. Wait, did I say more gambling revenue is good? Nevermind, what I meant was less is good, so Illinois will sell 80% of the lottery gambling revenue to unnamed person or persons for less than 30 cents on the dollar minimum , for the next 65 years. For the next 65 years, at least $480 million of the annual $600 million in income from the lottery would be siphoned off to private interests, leaving $120M for the state, effectively removing the lottery’s ability to provide a reasonable revenue stream.

Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), our state senator, voted in favor of the bill, just like we asked and he promised. All the other senators did too. Mike Madigan, as predicted, blocked it from becoming law in the house.

Blago wants it, so Madigan does not: that is the main reason. More and more, others are saying “leasing” the lottery is idiotic at best; maybe fiscal malfeasance of the highest order.

Will Blago call a special session? Madigan hinted at his press conference he might use any special session to initiate impeachment proceedings- he said he needs 60 votes. The next time the legislature is scheduled to convene is in November, after the elections, when they can also go ahead and fund those automatic pay raises they failed to refuse this session.

Hidden in Illinois Works, for the next 65 years, at least $480 million of the annual $600 million in income from the lottery would be siphoned off to private interests, leaving $120M for the state, effectively removing the lottery’s ability to provide a reasonable revenue stream, and guaranteeing a minimum 4.8% annual return on investment for the next 65 years. Minimum.

Makes you wonder who will be the recipients of this multi mega billion dollar windfall.

The way the projects are divied up, DG is either competing for a piece of $1 billion in Local Transportation Projects, or maybe the$10.8 B IDOT Multi-Year Program. As an idea of how much pork has been larded into this bill that DG is depending on to include our BU project, $200 million in capital project money is for Open Spaces (didn’t know you built that), $300 million to Private Universities (don’t worry, there’s another $1.05B for Public Universities, too). Oh, and someone somewhere is getting $25 million for a Civic Center. At least now we know how much a pork-laden one will cost us when DG moves ahead.

Along the way, Illinois Works aims to create 700,000 jobs, or to give you a comparison, 2 jobs for every person currently unemployed in Illinois. Man, that is good news!

At any rate, you may still wish to put in a good word for the BU, and you can do that here. If you do not know what to say, copy and paste in this, written by Elaine Johnson over at DGreport.


6 Responses to “The Belmont Underpass Odyssey Continues”

  1. Marge Says:

    I was wondering what happens if we start to build this underpass and the cost skyrockets, who according to the agreements, would foot the bill for the ammount overbudget?

  2. markthoman Says:

    I don’t know. I’ll ask.

  3. Anonymous Says:


  4. markthoman Says:

    I did not get any response (no FOIA, just an email), but found it in a village agenda, October of 2002. It looks like Metra and the state agree to absorb up to $6 million in cost overruns, but it is hard to say.

  5. DMcGregor Says:

    Does anyone know any construction details on the project? I work for a small contractor and have an interest in bridge construction. Our firm is too small to tackle a job this large. But for my own curiousity, I’d like to know how they’re going to build this thing? There must be a temporary Belmont road built around the site. I assume the tracks need to be relocated temporarily also, right?
    Is this a steel bridge, or precast girders?
    Are there any construction drawings available to the public?

  6. markthoman Says:

    First call should be to village hall 630-434-5500. I think this will end up a county directed project but who knows.

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