AP NEWS

Illinois governor seeks to spend $40M for river port project

February 27, 2020 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants the state to spend $40 million to develop a river port in Cairo, where the Mississippi and Ohio rivers meet.

Senate President Don Harmon filed the capital bill proposal last week as a formality on Pritzker’s behalf. The measure would spend $110 million for statewide public port projects, including the construction of a terminal in Cairo. The bill is subject to change as it advances through the House and Senate.

“Our administration has dedicated $40 million to the Cairo port because I’m committed to economic development in Southern Illinois,” Pritzker said in an emailed statement to The Southern Illinoisan.

Pritzker’s proposal comes after Sen. Dale Fowler spent months advocating for an inland Cairo port. Fowler said the earmarked money indicates the project is inching closer to becoming a reality.

“While I understand that we have a ways to go before funding is guaranteed for the port terminal, this is encouraging news for a project that would revive a portion of our state that has been neglected and overlooked for far too long,” Fowler said.

Fowler referenced the reappropriation bill for “Rebuild Illinois,” the six-year, $45 billion capital budget that lawmakers approved last June to build and upgrade roads, bridges, parks, schools, broadband access, ports and other infrastructure. The massive infrastructure spending bill is subsidized by increased gasoline and cigarette taxes and a gambling expansion. Every fiscal year, it must be refiled and authorized by the General Assembly for spending to carry forward into the next one.

“Our state is the transportation hub of the Midwest, and our historic Rebuild Illinois investments will cement our standing as a leader in logistics and transportation,” Pritzker said.

Fowler said several multibillion dollar companies have expressed interest in the project if it gets approved. He predicted that it could generate hundreds of jobs across the region.

“There is so much potential in this port, and I’m excited that Governor Pritzker recognizes the opportunity for development in Southern Illinois,” Fowler said. “There is no doubt in my mind that when this terminal is constructed, the port will become the nation’s hub for river port transportation.”