Gov. Pritzker, we need our ‘bridge to the future’

The governor has a great opportunity to narrow the pandemic’s inequality gap by getting behind a project in Joliet that would create 10,000 permanent jobs.

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A transportation hub to be located in Joliet, south of I-80, would be used to relay goods arriving by rail to two intermodal terminals a short distance away.

Sun-Times Media

The global pandemic and economic crisis have taken the heaviest toll on communities of color, especially Black Americans and Latinos on Chicago’s South Side and in the southern suburbs.

Together, the pandemic and economic downturn have widened the inequality gap in Illinois, one that Gov. J.B. Pritzker has vowed time and time again to close.

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But the governor has a great opportunity to do something about that — and to keep those promises. He could get behind a stalled development project in Joliet that would create 10,000 permanent jobs, most of them in my congressional district, providing an average salary of $42,000. That would be a living wage, not just a minimum wage.

The project is ready to break ground and put Illinois folks to work within a matter of weeks. The governor just has to give the word.

Compass Global Logistics Hub, to be located in Joliet, just south of I-80 and east of I-55, would be a place to relay goods arriving by rail to two intermodal terminals a short distance away. It would generate nearly $20 million in annual property tax revenue for schools and taxing bodies. Over 10 years, it would create an estimated $32 billion in total economic output.

That’s not bad for a state in dire financial straits.

And it would do so without raising your taxes.

Demand for the project was created by everyone — pretty much all of us — who now orders many more products online. Illinois is uniquely positioned as a transport hub for the Midwest in this industry, with Will County already serving as the world’s largest inland “port.”

The project has the support of organized labor; and its developer, Northpoint Development, is not asking for government financial incentives.

Surveys show that south suburban residents strongly favor the project, including those who live close to the site. The project also has the bipartisan backing of Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Rep. Robin Kelly and Rep. Adam Kinzinger, whose district touches the project. The Joliet City Council gave its approval back in December to move ahead with the project.

So what’s the holdup? And what can Pritzker do to make this happen?

The State of Illinois needs to approve the transfer of 1.5 miles of roadway from the village of Elwood to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which would allow for the construction of a bridge to connect the new hub directly to the intermodals terminals. This would protect existing highways from increased truck traffic and keep trucks away from the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. The developer is to foot that bill.

I call it the bridge to our future.

I’m calling on the governor to meet with NorthPoint and get this project underway. 

Too many of my constituents have been pushed out of the workforce by the pandemic and its economic fallout. Illinois leaders should not be turning their backs on a private investment and jobs program that would generate revenue and opportunity, especially to communities of need.

To make real, lasting and meaningful investments in education, healthcare, social justice, green infrastructure and affordable housing for all, Illinois needs a strong and sustained tax base. To attract investment, we must maintain our state’s competitiveness when other companies come calling.

It is up to the state to take down the roadblocks and make this happen.

Gov. Pritzker, it’s your move.

U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, a Democrat, represents Illinois’ 1st Congressional District.

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