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National Editorials & Columns

Repaving Liberty Street was not necessary

To the Editor:

Questioning government expenditures is a civic duty. Why is it necessary to recurb and resurface Liberty Street in downtown Morris?

This street appears to have a satisfactory concrete sub-surface. The curbs were damaged in places, but not seriously. The recurbing required resetting adjacent block sidewalk strips. Did this effort approach half a million dollars?

This street is two lane with angle parking on both sides. The speed limit of 25 mph is difficult to attain because of the eight downtown stop lights and the care that must be taken to avoid cars backing out of or entering the angle spaces. Tar-filling cracks and repairing with cold patches have sufficed for years.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported on a new oil field in South Texas, which relies on tank trucks to take crude to distant destinations. The local roads were being broken up by the heavy traffic and, instead of constructing heavy-duty roads or increasing maintenance and repair of the existing road net, the state decided to turn 80 miles of these roads into gravel roads to reduce maintenance costs and reduce truck speeds.

This intelligent move might be followed by an arrangement whereby trucking companies would voluntarily contribute funds to build heavy-duty roads to the extent that the resulting higher speeds reduced operating costs. Such an arrangement avoids taxpayer subsidization of trucking costs.

Since the Morris Liberty Street resufacing is unnecessary from a traffic standpoint, and cost of maintenance was minimal, was this project undertaken to improve the appearance of the downtown area? If so, the retail businesses benefiting should be assessed the cost. Are they in agreement?

The state allocates motor fuel tax revenues to geographical entities on the basis of road mileage, and forbids use of such funds on other than road-related projects. This results in road repair funds accumulating in some districts and being insufficient in other areas – typical government resource misallocation.

The most heavily traveled roads tend to be poorly maintained, while less used roads receive premature resurfacing. This explains why it is difficult to find an unpaved rural road these days and some tempt speeders to do 90mph. The Illinois [Department of Transportation] experts should be involved in this area, not Legislature members.

Although the availability of funds may explain the Liberty Street resurfacing expenditures, it is most unfortunate that such a low economic benefit from such a large capital investment is permitted.

Alphonse I. Johnson


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