Mayor Lightfoot launches $3.7 billion Chicago Works infrastructure plan with kick-off of paving season

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Mayor Lightfoot at the Chicago Works announcement (Screen capture from WGN-TV video)

The city has launched a multi-billion Chicago Works jobs and infrastructure plan.

Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined aldermen and city officials at an April 26 event to launch the first year of the city’s five-year multi-billion-dollar Capital Plan. The 2021 first instalment will include more $600 million of infrastructure modernization projects to enhance the quality of life for all Chicago residents in all 77 communities, the mayor’s office said in a statement.

“The plan relies on data to select and prioritize investments across the full array of public assets, addressing the worse first, along with an emphasis on equity and safety in order to create jobs and spur the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic while addressing decades-long backlog of infrastructure needs,” the statement said.

The Mayor made the Chicago Works announcement in Auburn Gresham on the South Side at the site of a Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) arterial resurfacing project at 81st Street and Damen Avenue.

Over the next two year, CDOT will leverage and supplement federal and state funding to resurface 75 miles of arterial streets annually; almost double the miles of a typical year. Similarly, 500 more residential blocks will be resurfaced each year (1,240 blocks per year vs 740 blocks in past years).

“With paving season underway across our City, we are thrilled to be able to create and offer jobs to our residents that will allow us to make critical infrastructure repairs in all 77 of our neighborhoods,” Lightfoot said. “With an emphasis on equity, the Chicago Works infrastructure plan will allow us to invest in the lives of residents in need and bring our entire city closer together by literally building bridges between our communities. This effort will allow us to unlock our city’s full potential, give our residents the resources they need to succeed right in their own neighborhoods and ensure that our City retains its reputation as a world-class destination filled with state-of-the-art infrastructure.”

Chicago Works dedicates funding for the repair and replacement of traditional infrastructure like roads, bridges, sidewalks, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible crosswalk ramps, streetlights and traffic signals among others.

The plan also includes funding for projects that will redefine Chicago such as nine new streetscape projects in INVEST South/West neighborhoods, funding for public art, the planting of trees and the implementation of Complete Streets designed for next century.

The city is funding the 2021 and 2022 construction through $1.4 billion in General Obligation (GO) bond proceeds that represent the first instalment on a $3.7 billion five-year plan.

“The Mayor’s Chicago Works Capital Plan provides the funding and framework for a legacy investment in our critical transportation infrastructure in neighborhoods across the city, especially in communities challenged by mobility and economic hardships” said CDOT Commissioner Gia Biagi. “As our city leads the way on recovery from the pandemic, Chicago Works includes funding for streetscapes, lighting, bikeways, bridges, sidewalks, traffic safety, public art, and more. These improvements prioritize making it easy to safely move around the city in sustainable ways like walking, biking, and taking public transit while making our streets and our public way vibrant, safe, and inviting places.”

In addition to addressing deferred maintenance, the city will also engage with Aldermen and community groups in the planning and design of new neighborhood investments that will enhance community vitality and drive economic development.

Chicago Works “will make meaningful improvements to address sustainability issues in Chicago such as greenhouse gas emissions, storm water management and local air quality. Notable investments will be made to improve conditions for residents who walk, bike and take public transportation, allowing for safer and more efficient citizen experiences across the city,” the statement says.

The plan also includes “meaningful efforts to address deferred maintenance needs in city buildings such as libraries, firehouses, and health centers across Chicago. Improvements include, but are not limited to roofing, heating/cooling/ventilation systems, electric and plumbing to enhance the safety and energy efficiency of buildings.”

The plan is expected to bring thousands of Chicago residents back to work; most programs require at least half of the work be performed by Chicago residents, the statement says. The city procurement and contracting process will place a high priority on using minority, women-owned and locally owned businesses. Comprehensive and consistent outreach, education, and support for these businesses and proactive workforce partnerships, paired with strong enforcement of contract goals and commitments, will receive renewed focus and be a hallmark of this Capital Plan.

“Now more than ever, we must invest in our city’s human infrastructure by providing good-paying, sustainable jobs to stay afloat and contribute to our economic recovery” said 36th Ward Alderman Gilbert Villegas. “Chicago Works will not only satisfy this need, but it will also significantly enhance our communities through these infrastructure projects. I am proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office and CDOT on this initiative because when we invest in our workforce, we invest in our city as a whole.”

“Finding employment in the construction trades represents for many the chance for a career, with potential for advancement and family-sustaining wages and benefits,” says Karin M. Norington-Reaves, CEO of the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership. “We are thrilled to be part of the Chicago Works program and to continue our work in supporting communities and individuals who have been historically underrepresented in the skilled trades.

“We are working with the city to provide a solid pipeline of qualified men and women for the opportunities being created by this capital investment. The Partnership’s network of community-based workforce development organizations provides training and job placement support in the skilled trades and other high-growth, high-demand sectors.”

Upcoming infrastructure projects

Highlights of the first two years of funding include:

  • Aldermanic menu program: $216 million over two years that includes increasing the yearly menu budget, per ward, from $1.32 million to $1.5 million.
  • Bridges and viaducts: $164.3 million to complete the funding for 23 bridge replacement projects, $66.2 million for 37 bridge repair projects, $16.9 million to rehabilitate 13 underpasses; and $7.5 million to begin the process of improving vertical clearance at 5 viaducts. 
  • Streets and alleys: $250.4 million for residential and arterial street resurfacing based on the Pavement Condition Index and ADA Ramp needs. Also funds the reconstruction of WPA streets along with 100 new Green Alleys to improve drainage and sustainability; one green alley in each ward every year.
  • Street lighting: $112.3 million for the complete replacement of 300 blocks of lighting infrastructure, along with strategic targeted light pole replacements and wiring stabilization repairs. 
  • Traffic signals: $28.4 million to modernize the City’s historically underfunded traffic signal system. 
  • Sidewalks and pedestrian right-of-way: $112.2 million for sidewalk repair (hazardous, vaulted, shared sidewalk programs, ADA ramps, curb and gutter, and alley aprons) to increase accessibility and public safety. 
  • Complete streets: $49.0 million for improvements to bike lanes, priority bus routes, pavement markings and Vision Zero pedestrian safety projects. $104.2 million towards the funding of 24 streetscape projects including those in Invest South/West Corridors. $6 million for planting 12,000 trees. 
  • Waterways: $12.3 million for the reconstruction of 1 mile of lakeshore encompassing Morgan Shoal and the expansion of the Calumet River Dredging Facility to ensure clean waterways for commerce on the Calumet River.  
  • Facilities: $132.5 million for renovations and system upgrades to public facilities such as Department of Family and Supportive Service centers, Chicago Department of Public Health locations, Chicago Public libraries, and dozens of non-public facing facilities. This budget also includes environmental remediation of city-owned land and demolition of hazardous buildings. 
  • Equipment: $162.1 million for the city’s fleet, equipment, and IT systems.  

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