Illinois is home to the second-largest population of wintering bald eagles in the United States. Last month I watched them soar over the Spring Lake Fish and Wildlife Area, counting 20 of these beautiful birds in just an hour. Observing these magnificent creatures in flight, I thought about iBi's upcoming transportation issue.
Our multimodal transportation network is one of the region’s critical strengths. We are extraordinarily fortunate for our location along the Illinois River, with all the efficiencies and benefits of river transportation. Our railroad network is strong; our highways place us within a day’s drive of nearly half of the U.S. population. And we are blessed to have the Peoria International Airport (PIA), with daily flights to four of the five most-connected airports in the country.
In this issue, PIA’s Jennifer Davis reminds us of the challenge faced by smaller airports: maintaining service in a consolidated industry. “Use it or lose it” is sage advice as airlines today are focusing on profits over market share. The ability of a community like ours to retain our current service—much less pursue new routes—will be based on this premise of “flying local.”
As winter again turns to spring, we face the proverbial issue of potholes on our roadways. Tazewell County Engineer Craig Fink offers a sobering snapshot of the heavy burden placed on local governments with regard to road maintenance. Even as costs continue to skyrocket, highway user fees are not being equitably reinvested in local roads. “As a result,” he writes, “maintenance on local roads is being deferred every year, and in some cases suspended entirely.”
There are numerous proposed solutions to this unfunded mandate, none of them popular. We have grown accustomed to a world-class transportation system, but haven’t wanted to pay for it. Eventually, we will all have to pitch in… or lose it. Several weeks ago, I found myself seated next to Bobby Hambrick of AutonomouStuff at a meeting of local business leaders. I marvel at the technologies his company is utilizing to support autonomous vehicles—advances I never thought would happen in my lifetime. And it’s not just self-driving cars.
“Standard features we take for granted were once only available in our imaginations,” writes Gary Uftring. “When the curtain is pulled back and the latest prototype is revealed, it becomes evident that anything is possible.” When you think about it, it’s as inspiring as watching eagles in flight. iBi