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State budget impasse halts city road projects

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The biggest roadway project in Evanston this year will grind to a halt later this week because state officials said they no longer have the money to keep paying the contractor.

Lara Biggs, the city's engineering and capital planning bureau chief, said she's been advised by the Illinois Department of Transportation that work on the Emerson, Ridge, Green Bay Road project has to stop.

Although the project is funded by the federal government, the contract is managed by the state, with the state typically making payments to the contractor as work is completed in phases and then seeking reimbursement from the feds.

Apparently the state officials have concluded they no longer have enough money in the bank to make those payment advances.

The state is about to complete a full year without an approved state budget this month, and as of now has no budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

But City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said there's some hope that the road funding issue — which also involves numerous other roadway projects around the state — may be resolved by early next week.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the action by the state is outrageous. "People need to start speaking up and let the people in Springfield know they need to do their jobs," Wilson said.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, suggested the city should put up signs saying "This delay is brought to you by the folks in Springfield."

The $11 million Emerson, Ridge, Green Bay Road project has been in the planning stages for more than two years.

Biggs says the project already had a tight work schedule planned to get the work completed during this construction season and any substantial shutdown would likely mean it couldn't be completed this year.

She says the contractor on the project plans to bring work to a halt — applying a temporary new surface to the roadway where water mains are being replaced and removing its construction barricades — by Wednesday.

The state funding cutoff also affects work to reconfigure bike lanes on Dodge Avenue, but Biggs said that smaller project is already nearing completion this week.

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Major road project starts Monday (5/12/16)

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