The road to success can be bumpy and seem endless. But we're on our way here in central Illinois. Building new roads, maintaining existing roads, and leveraging the two for optimal funding is the challenge. Behind California and Texas, Illinois ranks third in the nation in miles of road and numbers of bridges. While that may bode well for our ability to travel, it also represents a major burden and continuing expense for the future.

The daily updates on our I-74 renewal represent the most expensive downstate highway project in history. This nearly $500 million project has been sorely needed for a long time for reasons of safety, efficiency, and capacity. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining highways always seems to compete for funding to build new ones. Think how far the same dollars required by the I-74 project could have gone in covering the cost of completing the I-474 ring road with a new bridge across the Illinois River near Mossville.

New highways require patience, persistence, and untiring champions for their cause. As an example, the "Peoria to Chicago Highway" project has popular support, but it doesn't seem to have the staying power and persistence to make it happen. After decades of debate, the expansion of Route 29 from near Mossville to Interstate 180 near Hennepin is still under consideration.

The "Illinois Corridor 74" initiative is another prime example of efforts to leverage the asset we have. We encourage support for State Rep. Keith Sommer; he envisions the communities along I-74-from Peoria to Bloomington/Normal to Champaign-"combining strengths and becoming partners." This truly could be the economic magnet he sees: four universities and five colleges, Caterpillar, State Farm, U of I, medical and agriculture research, transportation infrastructure, favorable business climate, etc. We wish Rep. Sommer well on his crusade-and we wish him the support of politicians, businesses, and communities throughout the corridor.

Speaking of corridors, Galesburg and points north are joining forces with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and advertising themselves as a logistics hub (www.US34.com). For many reasons, we wish them success. Galesburg has taken some nightmarish economic hits lately. Such proactive moves in the face of adversity hopefully will impress those who could benefit. On a selfish note, Galesburg is a passenger rail connection for the Peoria area; it behooves all of us to ensure that connection and that city endures and grows.

We have a critical Technology Boulevard project in East Peoria awaiting state funding of $11.5 million. It's essential to begin development of the 65-acre birthplace and former manufacturing center for Caterpillar. While the project hasn't suffered for lack of champions, we must continue our persistence to make it happen.

Unrelenting persistence is seen from the 336 Coalition, which focuses on a four-lane highway from Peoria to Macomb. The first efforts date back to the late 1960s, when that segment of the highway was proposed as part of the Chicago to Kansas City Highway. The semi-annual 336 Update is a newsletter to keep interested citizens, government officials, and business leaders in touch. For excellent background on their advocacy efforts, go to www.336coalition.org.

Next summer, the entire interstate from Monroe Street in Peoria to the Riverfront Drive interchange in East Peoria will be closed and completely reconstructed, including the Murray Baker Bridge. Our patience is required.

Our highways and interstates have a huge impact on our economy-past, present, and future. It's important for the future of central Illinois to continue to be patient, persistent, and champion the cause for the repair and rebuilding of our roads. IBI