Poor Bridges, Possible Solutions?

Chicago and the rest of Illinois has some of the poorest bridges in the country. There is a controversial proposed solution to fix the deteriorating bridges

By Edwin Vega and Yanira Vazquez

 

Lake Shore Drive in its usual rush hour traffic near Maggie Daley Park. Photo Courtesy of Edwin Vega

 

In January, Lake Shore Drive gave daily commuters a scare that forced city and state officials to re-examine the poor conditions bridge and road infrastructures are currently in.

 

A large crack on a steel beam on the Lake Shore Drive bridge over Randolph Street brought traffic to a halt for a few days as Illinois Department of Transportation workers made temporary repairs.

 

The Lake Shore Drive bridge incident refocused concerns about bridge conditions not only in Chicago but the state of Illinois as well.

 

Location of where the crack beam on the Lake Shore Drive bridge occurred, right off the corner of Randolph and Lake Shore in the loop. Photo Courtesy of Edwin Vega

According to 2017 data compiled by the U.S Department of Transportation, of the 26,775 bridges in Illinois, 2,224 bridges, about 8.3 percent, are in poor condition. Illinois ranks fourth in the nation with the most poor bridges in a state, behind Oklahoma (2,684) Pennsylvania (4,147) and Illinois neighboring state Iowa (4,805) while other neighboring state, Missouri, is right behind Illinois as the fifth worst state (2,080).

Other neighboring states also carry high numbers of poor bridges including Indiana (1,368) and Wisconsin (1,112).

 

 

Alexa Corona, a senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), heard about the incident from a friend who drives on the Lake Shore Drive bridge regularly. Corona believes that the city of Chicago does not pay attention to transportation infrastructure until “it actually becomes a problem”.  

 

“It could have been fixed a long time ago, it’s usually just ignorance by the city” Corona stresses. “The state always say they don’t have money for things. This is important, I mean you’re not going to let this go until it cracks. Illinois has the worst problems with [bridges] I mean I think about it every time I’m driving over a bridge, especially when I’m driving over water because if something happens that’s it.”

 

Cook county has 206 poor bridges, more than any other county in Illinois. The second highest poor bridge county is Peoria county. However, between the two counties there is a drastic 129 bridge differential with Peoria having 77 poor bridges. Every other county in Illinois has 72 poor bridges or lower.  

Bridges in Chicago and the rest of Illinois are inspected regularly. States must follow a 48-month inspection policy for all bridges according to the Federal Highway Administration’s website. Bridges that are passed are used for life, according to DePaul University public policy professor Dr. Joseph Schwieterman, an expert in the fields of transportation and urban planning. He said that the inspections lose their effectiveness.

Interactive Google Map above shows the amount of bridges in poor condition in every Illinois county.

 

There’s so many unpredictable things that can happen, particularly structural compromises in the steel don’t often pick up with the inspection” Schwieterman said. “But you’re still rolling the dice. And that’s what we’re seeing around the country. Bridges that passed inspections suddenly go down.”

 

Schwieterman calls this rolling the dice and the unpredictable bridge conditions the “boogie man.”

According to the city of Chicago’s 2019 budget overview, issued to the public by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in Chicago there are two types of funding that are heavily used for bridge maintenance: the vehicle tax fund and the motor fuel tax fund. The primary source of revenue for the vehicle tax fund are vehicle stickers. For the motor fuel tax fund, its primary revenue comes from a $0.19 per gallon tax on gasoline. This funding also supports other transportation costs like street lighting and road salt costs.

 

According to the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA), all levels of government needs to spend $105 billion per year to maintain and improve the condition of roads and bridges.

The 2019 budget overview shows that the motor fuel tax fund generated $67.4 million in 2018, roughly about 8.5 percent of the 2018 year-end budget of $787.8 million. $214.1 million did, however, come from the vehicle tax fund which makes up 27 percent of the 2018 year-end budget, however, it was a decrease from 2017’s vehicle tax fund of $246.3 million. There was also a decrease in the motor fuel tax fund with $72.1 million from the overall $746.8 million budget in 2017, which decreased to $67.4 million from the $787.8 million budget in 2018.

Chart shows Motor Fuel and Vehicle Tax Funds in Chicago from 2017-2018

INTERACTIVE CHART: CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE ABOUT THE TAX CHART


There have been proposals by Illinois state legislatures to raise the gas tax, which hasn’t been done in Illinois since 1990.

 

Abigail Pawletki, a recent graduate from Northeastern University, opposes the idea of raising the gas tax.

 

“We already have high gas prices. There are so many other things they could tax or even cut back on and they would have the budget” Pawletki said. “Creating more casinos and legalizing marijuana would be a smarter start than raising gas prices higher than what they already are.”

Corona says about the gas tax “I’m against it. If you look at some of these officials and what they’re getting paid, they don’t want to dig in any of their pockets but they want to dig into our pockets. This is why we are losing the population in the state of Illinois ”

When asked about the gas tax being a viable solution, Schwieterman said that fixing fiscal problems are much bigger than raising a tax.

 

We’re not anywhere there yet so you may raise the gas tax and the state is just going to be as broke.”

If you want to get involved and want to see officials make changes to infrastructure and transportation policies, consider becoming a member of the IRTBA and make your voice heard.

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20 of the Best Cycling Cities in the World

What makes a city great for cycling? Well according to an article from Momentum Mag, lack of hills, climate, infrastructure, and accessible bicycle resources are among the top criteria for making a city bike friendly. Below is a map displaying the top 20 bike friendly cities in the world. These all meet the criteria and have their own unique appeal.

When looking at a bike friendly city, infrastructure can be one of its most defining characteristics. Cities that invest in making bike routes or incorporating cycling into their urban plans are the ones that truly standout. For example, the city of Eindhoven, Netherlands has built an impressive elevated roundabout that is just for bicycling. Visually, it is astounding and it is sure to steal the heart of any cyclist. Eindhoven is ranked 13 on this map and is just among the many different cities that have made an effort to create a bike friendly environment. Not only is cycling good exercise, but it is also good for the environment. Cities should encourage biking as a form of transportation because it can help improve the amount of pollution caused by other forms of transportation. It is also a great way to explore the city and take in all of the great views.

 

The Greenland Ice Sheet is melting at an Astonishing Rate

The effects of climate change are often though of as problems of the future, but we are actually experiencing significant changes in our environment because of it today. One of these effects is the melting of Antarctic glaciers and more specifically Greenland’s ice sheets. According to an article by CNN, Greenland’s ice sheets have enough water to raise global seas levels by 23 feet.

This rise in sea levels can occur sooner than we think since the melting of the ice sheets has accelerated rapidly in the past two decades according to a study published in a scientific journal titled NatureThis rapid loss of ice would effect the millions of people living in coastal cities which will be the most affected by the rising sea levels.

This Google time lapse graphic shows just how much ice has melted In Greenland since 1984. We can see a more dramatic change occurring between 2000 and 2016.

According to the study mentioned above, this ice loss is a result of the rising temperatures in our environment or global warming. Even the smallest change in temperature can have a dramatic effect on the ice sheet’s melting rate. In the article by CNN, co-author to the study mentioned, Luke Trussel, states that there is a shared thought amongst the scientific community that once we reach a certain temperature there will be irreversible effects. The melting will reach a point of no return. Climate change is not something to look for in the future, it is happening right now and its effects are being experienced by people to this day.

Most Teens See Depression and Anxiety as Major Problems

According to an article by the Pew Research Center, most U.S. teens view depression and anxiety as major problems that their peers are facing. Depression and Anxiety are extremely common in the U.S. and the age range for people living with these conditions is 15-44. Although, recent stories explain how depression is becoming much more common in children and can start developing in children as young as 11 years old.

With the rise of mental health related issue in the U.S. there should also be a rise in mental health advocacy. People should get the proper information about these disorders in order to seek help for themselves or a loved one. Below are just a few shocking statistics about depression and anxiety, and how prevalent they are, not only in the U.S., but worldwide.

This graphic lists a few shocking statistics about anxiety and depression. View interactive graphic

 

1994 USA Hosted FIFA World Cup had the largest number of attendance since 1930

The FIFA World Cup is the famous international soccer competition that has taken place every four years since 1930. Currently, 32 countries compete for the world cup, this is out of the 211 countries that are eligible for a chance to compete. Since 1930, 17 countries have hosted the the world famous event. Brazil, France, Italy, Germany and Mexico have each hosted the event twice, while Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, the United States, South Africa and Russia have each hosted once. Japan and South Korea also hosted the event jointly. Among these countries, the United States hosted the highest attended world cup since 1930 and it still holds the title today.

The 1994 World Cup was the highest attended competition since 1930 (3,568,567 attendees) and was hosted by the USA. Check out the interactive graph. 

The decision to allow the United States to host the World Cup was not favored by everyone. FIFA received backlash for this decision and this had much to do with the fact that the USA did not have a popular soccer culture. According to a story done by John D. Halloran, for the Bleacher Report, one journalist described FIFA’s decision as comparable to hosting a skiing competition in an African country. Allowing the United States to host the event was a way to spark an interest in the sport and the decision proved to be a success because the 1994 World Cup still holds the title of most attended World Cup with a total of 3,568,567 people in attendance. The event was held in nine different cities Chicago, Los Angeles, San Fransisco, Dallas, Orlando, Washington D.C., Boston, and East Rutherford. Brazil came out as champions, beating Italy in the final round 3-2. This was Brazil’s second win among the five titles that they currently hold.

 

 

Chicago Pride Parade attendance has increased immensely since 1985.

Chicago’s annual pride parade takes place on the last Sunday of June and is the final event of the weekend long celebration known as Chicago Pride.  The parade commemorates the famous Stonewall rebellion that occurred in New York City on June 27, 1969. The LGBT patrons of the Stonewall Inn fought back against a routine police raid. The following year there was a “Gay-In” that took place on the same day as the police raid the previous year. This event is what started the annual Pride celebrations that are not just in New York City, but in multiple cities across the country.

The Chicago Pride celebration has grown to be one of the largest and most well-known Pride events in the world, according to the Chicago Pride Parade website.    Below is a visualization of the increasing number of people that attend the Chicago Pride Parade. We can see that since 1985, attendance went from 35,000 to 1,000,000.

chicago pride parade data

To view the interactive graphic click here

This increase in attendance shows how much popularity the event has gained. It also shows the increase of people that are celebrating and recognizing the long history of the LGBT community. The event is described as a symbol for all people to be able to express their sexual and gender identities. This year’s Pride Parade will take place on Sunday, June 30 at noon.

Practice Story

Pat Quinn Photo
Gov. Pat Quinn talks about MAP grants at DePaul University. (Photo by Josclynn Brandon)

By Bob Smith

Gov. Pat Quinn visited DePaul University’s Loop campus on Wednesday to discuss how pension reform is harming the Monetary Award Program (MAP) college scholarships and access to higher education in Illinois.

“This is so important to our state, not only in the past, but certainly now and in the future,” Quinn said.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to go to college that has the ability to go to college.”

MAP grants are need-based college scholarships that allow merit students who are in need across the state and do not need to be repaid by the student. Quinn said that due to cutbacks and having to pay more money in the pension amount, almost 18,000 students lost their MAP grant scholarships this year.

“We do not want anyone denied that opportunity because of finances,” Quinn said. “We can’t afford to lose all the talent that exists, all the ability that exists for higher education to help our economy and to help all of us, because there are financial challenges that deny someone the opportunity to go to community college or a four-year university — public and private — in our state.”

 

Quinn was joined by several Illinois college students, including DePaul Student Government Association Vice President Casey Clemmons.

“Every year over 5,000 DePaul students receive MAP grants, and just like the students who have already spoken here today, all of these DePaul students rely on this funding in order to continue their college careers,” Clemmons said.

“Because the number of Illinois students eligible to receive MAP is currently increasing, existing funding does not allow the state to assist all the eligible students. As a result, without action by the Illinois state leadership, more DePaul students than ever will see their MAP funding disappear this year and more

DePaul students than ever will be forced to give up their education due to finances.”

More than 150,000 students nationally receive MAP grants each year.

Clemmons told the audience that on Tuesday, DePaul’s SGA unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Illinois general assembly and the governor to ensure the longevity of the MAP program.  He read the resolution aloud and presented a copy to Quinn.

Ken Thomas, a University of Illinois Board of Trustees student member, MAP recipient and University of Illinois Chicago student, told how he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for the MAP grant.

“My mom, when I was in high school, had to work two jobs just to keep food on the table,” Thomas said, “and if we didn’t have [the] MAP program like we do today, I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today; graduating with a degree, hoping to be a productive member of society.”

Having a productive and functioning society and economy is what Quinn says it’s all about.

“Jobs follow brainpower,” he said. “We want to make sure we have smart people in Illinois. Well skilled, well-educated students coming out of college with graduate degrees and diplomas so they can create jobs, create new businesses,” he said. “Our goal in Illinois is to have at least 60 percent of the adults in our state with a college degree or college associate degree or career certificate by the year 2025. In order to achieve we have to make sure we have a good scholarship program.”

Clemmons said that in order for that to happen, state legislatures need to reflect upon the question, “What must be done?” and do what’s required.