An article¹ in the Chicago Tribune outlined out many infrastructure projects in Illinois that would receive a portion of federal funding should President Biden’s two-trillion-dollar American Jobs Plan pass, along with various perspectives on the plan as well. The plan, which includes a tax rate increase on businesses to help pay for it, gives hope to many leaders for their projects they want funded to address transportation and infrastructure needs of the constituents they serve.
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker already has an infrastructure plan in place called “Rebuild Illinois,” which is a six-year plan costing forty-five billion dollars to repair or replace aging roads, bridges, and government-run facilities. What President Biden’s plan will do to Gov. Pritzker’s plan is simply execute it at a faster rate, which means that more projects which were backlogged will be coming down the pipeline faster. The biggest projects in the Chicago area include the Red Line Extension, reconstructing North Lake Shore Drive, replacing the lead water service lines in Chicago and beyond, implementing Vision Zero, which modernizes roadways to reduce pedestrian fatalities, various RTA and CTA projects including repairs, and the top three CREATE railway projects which are the 75th Street Corridor, a grade separation near 63rd Street and Harlem Avenue, and also at Archer Avenue.
Beyond Chicago, a huge project underway is the I-80 bridge over the Des Plaines River near Joliet. This large project has been in development for quite some time and, based upon the Illinois Department of Transportation’s recent published transportation bulletins, has moved into the second phase of engineering. This phase also includes land acquisition, the line-item label for taking and paying for private property for a project. Downstate, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville supports the CREATE railway projects specifically because they impact the freight traffic moving through and affecting the entire state, though he does not support Biden’s plan overall, since there are also rural highways that need expanding that he is concerned will not be addressed due to the broadening of what is included in an infrastructure plan.
What is not spoken about in this article is the property rights needed to execute the plans. Leaders often tout only the positives of the project and tend to downplay the costs. If the project involves expansions, widenings, or additions, consequently it tends to include the need to acquire private property. Ditto (nearly unequivocally) if there is a redevelopment plan involved. The right to take private property, even if just to resell at a higher price to a private developer “for the purpose of economic development,” has been established as constitutional since Kelo v. City of New London² was decided in 2005 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The main goal of most of these projects is for roadway and other infrastructure purposes that will be directly used by the public, but in the case of the CTA Redline extension, for example, there is also an accompanying economic development/redevelopment plan that will be executed in conjunction with the railway stations, so that each new stop has its own economic plan for redevelopment of the area. While the positives appear to outweigh the negatives, there is still the tendency for government entities, no matter how good their intentions, to give low offers to property owners in these situations.
With the potential surge in dollars to fund all these specific projects and more, more takings of private properties and property rights will naturally result. Although these projects are aimed to address equity and access to all communities, especially those underrepresented, that should not mean that those whose private property is taken should bear a burden of the costs. Just compensation for the taking of their land should be included in the costs of these projects, and proper legal representation is often the only way to ensure this.
¹Ruthhart, Bill, et al. “Red Line ‘L’ Extension? New Lake Shore Drive? Biden’s Jobs Plan Has Illinois and Chicago Officials Pushing Infrastructure Wish Lists.” Chicagotribune.com, Chicago Tribune, 2 Apr. 2021, www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-prem-chicago-illinois-transportation-infrastructure-joe-biden-20210402-jwc6fjfoqzae7fgulpzxwnddg4-story.html. Accessed 26 Apr. 2021.
²Kelo v. New London, 125 S.Ct. 2655, 162 L.Ed.2d 439, 545 U.S. 469 (2005).