CHANNAHON – Local lawmakers talked traffic, budgets and education Wednesday during a legislative luncheon organized by the Grundy County Chamber of Commerce.
State Rep. Larry Walsh Jr., D-Elwood, and state Sens. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, and Sue Rezin, R-Morris, were the event’s keynote speakers, providing updates from their respective legislative districts and highlighting problems they are working to resolve.
State Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend due to a conflicting committee meeting.
For Rezin, connecting local students with job opportunities within Grundy County has been a major priority.
Aside from helping found the Grundy Economic Development Council summer internship program two years ago, Rezin said she is fostering a new technology training initiative at a local community college.
“I’m hoping next time I’m standing here that I’ll be able to talk to you about a program at the local community college that I’m incredibly excited about,” Rezin said.
For the program, Rezin is partnering local companies with the community college in hopes of providing area students skills needed to work at Grundy County industrial plants.
“We want our students to stay here, live here and get their training here,” Rezin said.
Walsh and McGuire talked extensively about semi-trailer traffic in the area.
“One of the big issues we’re facing is this congestion of traffic through all of the commerce that’s coming out of these intermodal facilities,” Walsh told the group of public officials, business owners and community representatives.
“We have begun to sit down and look at serious solutions to what’s going on with this truck traffic,” he continued.
Safety measures and new traffic monitoring systems were put into effect this year and were working well, Walsh said, up until last month when accidents on I-55 claimed six lives.
“It was really working. Until the day that tragic accident happened, there was only three accidents in that zone,” Walsh said.
McGuire reiterated the need for better traffic systems in the county, especially with the amount of semi-trailer traffic that moves through the area.
“Certainly one of the fundamental duties of government is to keep people alive,” McGuire said.
Moving forward, Walsh said a potential $200 million project – which as proposed would build a bridge over the Des Plaines River at Houbolt Road – could reconfigure industrial traffic, avoiding Route 53 or Chicago Street and providing the trucks with direct access into the intermodal parks.
“The anticipation is that it would be privately funded. There would be a toll bridge for trucks, and it would be free lanes for cars,” Walsh said.
Rezin and Walsh also touched on issues in Springfield, including the state’s budget.
“We adopted a budget that was neither the doomsday budget nor the recommended budget,” McGuire said.
According to McGuire, the budget was a middle ground in which the state will maintain the same levels of funding as the previous year without changing.
Rezin stressed that bringing Illinois’ budget out of a deficit is possible as she cited many other states that have transformed their deficits into surpluses.
“It can happen,” Rezin said. “But it comes with policies. It comes from direction. It comes from leadership and understanding that you can’t only continue to tax and tax and raise fees to pay for government.”